Governor Cuomo: "This is unbounded arrogance, disrespect of the rule of law, hyper-political government, and this is another form of extortion."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on WAMC Northeast Public Radio with Alan Chartock, where he addressed the Trump Administration's decision to bar New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler Program.
AUDIO of the Governor's comments is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's comments is below:
Alan Chartock: I want to talk to you today about something special that's going on between you and the Trump Administration and it has to do with the Department of Homeland Security will not allow New York residents to enroll in the Trusted Traveler programs like Global Entry because of New York's Green Light Law. I talked to Jesse McKinley about that earlier today in our taping of the Capital Connection but first of all could you describe what this is all about?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, it's interesting Doctor because you were a little prophetic last time we chatted when we were saying, well, what would a Trump Administration be like after they get past impeachment and they have unbounded arrogance? This is what we were talking about. This is unbounded arrogance, disrespect of the rule of law, hyper-political government, and this is another form of extortion. This is what Trump did with Ukraine. This is the ethos of his federal government. The specific is Department of Homeland Security, gentleman by the name of Ken Cuccinelli, who is a conservative operative for them, ran for governor of Virginia, lost, Ken Cuccinelli is the person who offered a rewrite of the Emma Lazarus poem. Right? Emma Lazarus, on the Statue of Liberty, Cuccinelli is the person who rewrote the poem to say, "give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," so they literally want to rewrite the poem on the Statue of Liberty and what he said now, they disagree with our Green Light Law. Many other states have it, but it triggers the immigration debate that they're so fond of using to divide the people of this nation which they've done successfully. Polarization is their political mantra. What they're saying is if New York has this Green Light Law that says essentially you can't use DMV data, Department of Motor Vehicle data, for immigration purposes, right, because we have people who have a license but who are undocumented. That's the point of the Green Light Law. Other states have the same law.
Alan Chartock: So wait, wait, wait. Remind everybody what the Green Light Law is. Believe it or not, we know, but a lot of people don't.
Governor Cuomo: Green Light Law said if you are going to drive we want you licensed because the State has an interest in public safety and whether you are documented or not documented we want you to have a license. It was the situation in this state previously. It was then revoked. Thirteen other states have a green light law because the State has an interest in public safety. My daughter is driving a car on the road. If you're driving a car next to her I want to make sure you're licensed and you have a test, etcetera. So we allow people to have a driver's license whether they're documented or undocumented which means in that database from DMV you now have a list of undocumented people who have a driver's license in New York. When they passed the law, they wanted to make sure ICE, the federal ICE, did not come in, take that list and then use it and go and deport people. What Cuccinelli now says is, if you have that Green Light Law, we are not going to allow New Yorkers to sign up for what they call their Global Entry Program, is their main program, which is where you can get pre-clearance to come in through the borders or at an airport. About 150,000 people have this Global Entry Pass which streamlines your entry when you come in through an airport. It is pure politics. It has nothing to do with affecting government policy or laws. They never called. Normally in a situation like this, a law enforcement situation, where you have all sorts of cooperation, State Police who are working with the FBI, et cetera. They would call and then would say you know we need this information.
They didn't do that, they just issued a letter press release immediately because it's all politics. He says in his call, Cuccinelli, well we've been talking to Congressman Reed and Congressman Zeldin, two Conservative Congress people from New York, making it clear this is politically motivated. He says it's in furtherance of the President's promise to keep America safe from the immigrants which is clearly a political purpose and it sold. Obviously false because the way the program works, Alan, is to get this Global Entry Pass, you have to do an in-person interview with a federal official. So forget them checking state databases. Doctor Chartock wants a Global Entry Pass, you have to go a federal office or sit with a federal official, do an in-person interview provide them data and then you get signed up. So they don't need anything from me because they have you right in front of them. So it's all politics, they want to make their political point, which is they're anti-immigrant. New York is supporting immigrants and this is another way to make their political point and if they have to inconvenience New Yorkers to make their political points, so be it, because they're all about the politics.
When we talked about the State of the Union, was it a governmental address? Of course now. It was a political address. It was political theatre. It was Donald Trump show. You gave him an hour of national media and he performed. That's what they do. That's what they did with the Ukraine call. Right, let's be honest. You want money from me? Investigate my political opponent. Which even the Republican Senators admitted he did and was wrong. They said their slim reed of rational was well I don't think he should be impeached, but they had to admit it was wrong. It was extortion. And this is the same tactic here by their operative, Cuccinelli. I want to make the political point that you are pro-immigrant, and we're anti-immigrant and this is way we're going to do it. And Congressman Reed and Congressman Zeldin want me to do this. Come on. It's obvious as the nose on my face and that is obvious.
Alan Chartock: As well as mine. So I have a question for you. What about the other 18 states that you said have the Green Light Law? Should they be punished in the same way?
Governor Cuomo: Well, you know, who knows. You're looking for a rational basis, there's no rational basis; it's all politics. New York is their favorite target as we've seen. The SALT provision literally taking billions of dollars from us. They won't do the Gateway tunnels, even though Amtrak needs to go through New York to get to the Northeast. They won't fund the Second Avenue Subway. They've gone out of their way to hurt New York whenever they can, because they see New York as one of the targets for the rest of the country, where those New Yorkers, you know those Democrats, that state of immigration, that state of diversity; that's the target, that's the piñata for their conservative ethics in America.
Alan Chartock: Now you have Republican County Clerks who are saying they don't like your attitude on this, they don't like the Green Light Law and they're not going to do it. Do they have a point?
Governor Cuomo: We had the Green Light Law; it was the law in this state. It was then repealed from a state purpose, right? Governor's, we're just putting the coal in the oven every morning. I have to run the state. I want to make sure people who are on the roads are licensed. I don't want unlicensed people on our roads; it's a public safety issue, and that's what I'm concerned about. You can worry about your high-brow federal politics and policies, and your federal immigration laws. Let me keep people safe on our roads in the meantime, while you're making a debacle of the nation.
Alan Chartock: Just to be clear on this, Governor, the Green Light Law will stay in effect, right? In other words, even with them trying to interfere here, our Green Light Law will continue to be our Green Light Law?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, and they just want to make a point out of their objection to the Green Light Law. So, the way they want to punctuate that and fuel their argument is, well if you have the Green Light Law, I will not allow New Yorkers to join our what they call the "Trusted Traveler Program," or the "Global Entry Program." Why are you doing that? Oh, because we can't trust the database from New York. They're just making a political point, a political stunt and the reason it's ludicrous is to sign up for the Trusted Traveler Program, TTP, you have to do an in-person interview. It has nothing to do with a state database. You have to sit before a federal official who looks at you and says, "let me see your passport, let me see your date of birth, let me see your Social Security Card." If you are an undocumented person, Alan, you're not going to go for an in-person interview in front of a federal official. It has nothing to do with facts, or merit -- that's the point of the State of the Union. "Well what he said was false and we're so upset." What are you being upset about? He never said he was telling the truth; it's all theater. It's your expectation, which has to be recalibrated. "Where is the government rationale in what Cuccinelli is doing?" What makes you think there has to be a government rationale? That's your old-time thinking, Alan. Look at the way they now operate. There is no fact; there is no truth; there is no rationale; there is no governmental principal. All politics, all the time. You do whatever you can get away with, and you do Ukraine and extortion because you can get away with it, and now you believe you can get away with anything.
Alan Chartock: So have you spoken to Senator Schumer or members of the Executive Branch or the federal government about this, and most important, did you know this change was coming?
Governor Cuomo: No. That was my other point. They never called. Normally, if you were doing quote-unquote "government," I was in the federal government, if you had a question like this you would call and you would say, "To do our trusted program, trusted traveler program, we need this information." Yeah the FBI has access to our databases; the State Police works with federal agencies all the time in a cooperative way. That's the way you would have done this governmentally, but Alan, it's not government. That's the transition we have to make in our thinking. We keep expecting some level of responsibility and factual rationale - they don't operate on that basis. They never called; they never had a conversation; they sent the letter; they immediately did a press release and a press call, and what they said is basically, "Yeah we can't get this trusted traveler program in New York anymore because we can't get the database, but by the way, it's not about that either. It's really about we want the information for ICE because ICE is how we stay safe, and ICE is how we deport undocumented people and undocumented people are bad people, and ICE is the savior of the world." That's what they're saying.
Alan Chartock: So now, first of all, congratulations, I understand you were elected Chair of the Democratic Governors Association - is that right or do I have that wrong?
Governor Cuomo: I am the Vice Chair of the NGA - National Governors Association - and I'm going to be the Chair in the next cycle.
Alan Chartock: Okay so you're going to be in Washington with the Governor's people, can't you just pick up the phone and call Donald Trump and say, "Hey I want to talk to you"?
Governor Cuomo: Yes I have called the President; I've met with the President; I've talked to the President about all these things. Look, the President is also painfully clear and obvious - he moved from New York to Florida. Why? Maybe he wanted a climate change, except he was going to Florida anyway and he's in Washington, D.C. a lot. He believes politically he's viable in Florida, and Florida is going to be in competition, and his moving to Florida helps him politically, and in New York he's not going to win here, so if he's not going to win here, then what is the relevance? And use New York as a piñata to make your political argument to the other states. That's what they're doing, and they've been clear - SALT, I talked to the president about SALT. Ronald Reagan had proposed it. Ronald Reagan pulled it back when he saw the damage it would do.
Alan Chartock: That's the state and local taxes for those people who still aren't caught up on what SALT is.
Governor Cuomo: SALT, I talked to the president, people from New York talked to the president. It cost us billions of dollars, it is the tax increase in New York. When you hear people talking about taxes, Alan, the only increase in taxes in the State of New York has been from Donald Trump. I've never increased tax rates for any New Yorker, I did a property tax cap. He increased them. Second Avenue Subway in New York City normally would be funded by now, they're not funding it. The Gateway Tunnels that bring Amtrak into New York and then let Amtrak go up to the northeast, they refuse to fund it. They have constantly and consistently hurt New York State.
Alan Chartock: Yeah, sure.
Governor Cuomo: Yes, on purpose because we represent a different type of politics. Yes, I am unabashed in speaking for the people of this State when I say we welcome immigrants and we are all immigrants - I'm an immigrant. And I'm from an immigration family, and you're from a family that came here as immigrants. And by the way, Donald Trump came here through the same harbor, and his family came here as immigrants. And Vice President Pence's people came from Ireland after the potato famine and they came as immigrants. And remember where you came from because that is the greatest arrogance is to forget where you came from. Yes, that's our politics and they are the antithesis of that. So, they want to use New York as the poster child for what they are not.
Alan Chartock: Because they know that New Yorkers will never vote for them so why not just pick on New Yorkers.
Governor Cuomo: That is exactly right. He's not going to win here. "May as well move to Florida, that's where I have a chance of winning. My residency there may get seen more like I'm more akin to Floridians. I'll leave New York, I'll hurt New York with SALT, I won't fund any project in New York because they're not going to vote for me anyway." And this is a political view of the world and a political view of reality. It's what is good for me. Well, where's the good government rationale? Learned dark, as Chartock would suggest. There is no government principle here.