New Yorkers, Travel Industry Slam Trump’s Global-Entry Halt

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration’s blocking of time-saving international travel programs for New Yorkers has the governor seething and the travel industry warning of slowdowns, looser security and other airport troubles.

“This is unbounded arrogance, disrespect of the rule of law, hyper-political government -- and this is another form of extortion,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said during an interview on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

State residents were barred from enrolling or renewing credentials for the federal government’s Trusted Traveler system, including Global Entry and other programs for entering from Canada and Mexico. The Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program, which speeds domestic travelers, isn’t affected.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, in a Feb. 5 letter to New York officials, said the ban was the result of a state law that allows driver’s licenses to be issued to residents who lack immigration documents. Information about those licensees isn’t shared with federal authorities, leading to security risks, Wolf wrote.

“New York’s ‘Green Light Law’ is ill-conceived and the department is forced to take this action to ensure the integrity of our Trusted Traveler programs,” Wolf said in a news release.

More States

Laws similar to New York’s exist in at least a dozen states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Hawaii and New Jersey. New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement that the driver’s license law has weathered court challenges, and her office is reviewing the Homeland Security decision.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, told reporters on a call Thursday that the ban would apply to other states considering similar legislation, such as Washington. The department also is reviewing other restrictions to place on New York because of its law.

About 175,000 New Yorkers were expected to re-enroll this year, according to Homeland Security officials. Critics of the ban warned that fallout will be swift and widespread.

Freezing the programs could be dangerous, said Tori Emerson Barnes, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Association. The documentation gives authorities greater certainty on travelers’ identities and criminal backgrounds, she said.

“Suspending enrollment in Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler programs only undermines travel security and efficiency,” she said.

Security Clearance

Flight attendants and other airline employees have high-security clearances and rely on the programs to “perform their jobs in a timely and efficient manner,” according to a statement from the Transport Workers Union. It called for an immediate reversal of the suspension.

Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc referred questions to Airlines for America, a lobbying group for U.S. carriers. United Airlines Holdings Inc. declined to comment

“U.S. airlines are strong supporters of DHS’ Trusted Traveler programs -- including Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST -- that both enhance security and facilitate a seamless travel experience for passengers,” said Katherine Estep, an Airlines for America spokeswoman.

Trusted Traveler enrollees, who submit payment for background checks, fingerprinting and an interview, whisk through lines that can tie up other travelers, citizens or not, for hours.

Long Lines

Clare Bruff, 43 from Brooklyn, applied on Feb. 4 to renew her Global Entry credentials, which expire on June 1. For five years, she said, she has relied on the program for trips that take our her out of the country as many as six times a year.

“I can be home in less than an hour after my plane touches the ground, which is incredible,” said Bruff, a senior manager for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “I haven’t gone through American customs in five years, but you see the lines and it looks bad.”

Cuomo said the suspension is Trump’s latest swipe at New York, atop the $10,000 state and local tax-deduction limit and a lack of funding for a Hudson River rail tunnel and the Second Avenue subway. He called New York “the pinata” for Trump and fans of his conservative policy.

“New York is their favorite target,” Cuomo said.

Robert W. Mann, president of aviation consultant R.W. Mann & Co. and a frequent global traveler, said the ban will be problematic at major airports operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, primarily John F. Kennedy International Airport. It isn’t expected to have much affect on LaGuardia because it has limited international flights.

“Re-entry lines will increase” at JFK, said Mann, whose Global Entry renewal is coming up. “Airlines won’t like that, nor will the Port Authority.”

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