February 7, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Intent to Sue Federal Government Following Department of Homeland Security's Decision to Ban New Yorkers from Trusted Traveler Program

TOP Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript:...

Trump Administration's Politically Motivated Ban is Direct Retaliation for New York's Green Light Law that Prevents Federal Immigration Agencies from Accessing DMV Data


Governor Cuomo: "There is supposed to be a line between politics and government. You're not supposed to be using government as a political tool... You can't then use the government to come up with an arbitrary policy that hurts hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to make your political point... And we're going to sue the federal government; we're going to disclose this political intrusion into government, this ham-handed political tactic that once again hurts New Yorkers to make their political point."


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York State's intent to sue the federal government following the Department of Homeland Security's decision to ban New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler Program. On June 17, 2019, Governor Cuomo signed the Green Light Law allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses in New York, and preventing federal immigration agencies from accessing this Department of Motor Vehicle data. The Trump administration's politically motivated ban is direct retaliation for New York's Green Light Law. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have Green Light Laws, but New York is the only state that has been targeted by this administration for retaliation.


The lawsuit which will be brought by New York Attorney General Tish James, will argue that the Federal Department of Homeland Security has violated New York's sovereign immunity, not provided our residents with equal protection and is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner that denies the rights and privileges of all New Yorkers. Tish James has also been defending challenges to New York's Green Light Law.


VIDEO of today's event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.


AUDIO of today's event is available here.


PHOTOS of today's event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.


A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is below:


Thank you all for being here. Let me introduce you to the people who are with us today. To my left, Robert Mujica who is the budget director of the state of New York. To my immediate left, Rick Cotton who is the executive director of the Port Authority. To my right, our Commissioner for the Department of Health, Dr. Howard Zucker. To his right, Beth Garvey, my special counsel.


We want to give you an update on the Coronavirus and also speak about a situation that developed recently with the federal government on their actions from the Department of Homeland Security. And I think there is a broader context for the actions of the federal government.


As everybody knows, the President recently went through an impeachment and stood up yesterday and basically celebrated the fact that the impeachment was over. And he implied that he was innocent and that the process found him innocent of wrongdoing.


That is fake news. He was not found innocent. He was celebrating and suggesting a falsity. He was acquitted, not exonerated. There is a world of difference between the two. So, when he was holding up a newspaper and suggesting that he had done nothing wrong, that's not accurate.


We have here the New York Daily Truth that has an accurate, factual headline which is Trump Acquitted, Not Exonerated. Trump Fails to Learn Lesson of Ukraine, Repeats Political Extortion at Department of Homeland Security. That is the New York Daily Truth.


Why is it important? There is a world of difference between acquittal and exoneration. Acquittal means you have not been found guilty. That's what acquittal means, that he went through the trial in the Senate and the Senate did not find him guilty. True. It does not mean he was exonerated. Exonerated means I did nothing wrong. I was vindicated. I was cleared. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true, right?


First of all the jury that acquitted him is not actually a jury of peers, not actually objective. It wasn't a jury of peers. It was a jury of partisans and it was a pure partisan vote and even the Republican Senators, many of them said, went out of their way to say they do believe the actions were wrong, but they didn't think he should be impeached, he shouldn't get the political death penalty for what he did. The punishment didn't fit the crime or let the people decide, but even the Republican Senators said what he did on Ukraine was wrong.

The reason it's important is because the President will continue to do what he did on the telephone with Ukraine and what he did was try to extort Ukraine. It was an abuse of power. Do this for me or I won't give you money from the US government.


Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security did the same thing with the State of New York. It is political extortion. We disagree with your position on driver's license for undocumented people. Because we disagree with your position we're going to revoke participation in a program called Global Entry, Trusted Traveler Program. These are two wholly unrelated things. They want to make a political point that they disagree with New York's position allowing driver's licenses for the undocumented, which is our position.


We believe undocumented people in this state should be allowed to have a driver's license. We want them licensed. We want, from a public safety point of view, we want to know that the drivers who are on our roads are licensed. By the way, about 15 other states in the United States are doing the same thing. Some of them Republican states that are doing the same thing. Because from a state point of view, it makes sense. You want to make sure that your people are licensed if they're on your roads. President's political position is we're against immigration and that's his political position. I get that.


What they're now doing to make political hay, to advance their political argument, is they take the Department of Homeland Security in an abuse of power in a hyper politicalized use of government. Department of Homeland Security says we're going to disallow the Trusted Traveler Programs, which are basically pre-clearance for entry into the United States. You go through a background check, you sit with a federal official and if you gain clearance when you come into the country you have an expedited entry because you are already cleared for the customs and border patrol. They're saying we're going to disallow New Yorkers from that program because New York passed a law allowing driver's license for undocumented and because we don't have access to your DMV records. First of all, you don't need access to Department of Motor Vehicle records to do the global traveler clearance when you go for this clearance, you present yourself to a federal official. You have to go in person and provide the information to the federal government. They ask you for documents, they interview you and then they decide.


They don't have to go to a DMV database, you have the person in front of you. Second of all, our DMV database, we give it all to the FBI. If Homeland Security wants access to our database just go to the FBI who they work with all the time, and the FBI has the entire database. Third of all, you don't even need a DMV license to have global entry. You don't have to be a licensed driver to qualify for the federal Trusted Traveler Program. It is pure politics. Pure politics. The Deputy Secretary who announces this yesterday, his name is Cuccinelli, former Attorney General from Virginia, ran for Governor against Terry McAuliffe and lost -- an extreme conservative Trump advocate. He says in the conversation at the press conference, "well, we spoke to political people in the state of New York, including Congressman Reed and Congressman Zeldin and they want us to do this." Congressman Reed and Congressman Zeldin are two Republican, conservative congress people. You actually admit that you made this decision based on the wishes of two New York State Republican, Conservative politicians.


There is supposed to be a line between politics and government. You're not supposed to be using government as a political tool; that's the point of Ukraine. Yes, you want to investigate Joe Biden. Yes, we understand that. He might be your opponent. You can't use federal money to extort Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. You can't put those two things together. You want to make a point about immigration; I understand that. You want to make a political point that Democrats are bad on immigration, they shouldn't give undocumented people a driver's license. I understand that. You can't then use the government to come up with an arbitrary policy that hurts hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to make your political point. You can't do that. It's an abuse of power. It is extortion, and it's exactly what you did at Ukraine, and you didn't learn the lesson.


Because you believe that you were found innocent - you weren't. You were acquitted; you were not exonerated. They didn't find you guilty which is totally different than saying you did nothing wrong. And they never said you did nothing wrong. As I said, even the Republican senators - "I don't think he should be impeached for this; let the people decide. We have an election coming up; let the election determine it" - and many of them said, "Yes what he did was wrong, but I don't think he should get the political death penalty. It didn't rise to the level of political death penalty."


He was wrong. Extortion is wrong. Abuse of power is wrong. It was wrong in Ukraine and it's wrong here. And we're going to sue the federal government; we're going to disclose this political intrusion into government, this ham-handed political tactic that once again hurts New Yorkers to make their political point. They did it with the state and local tax deduction, where they cost us billions of dollars to give New York dollars to their political-friendly states. He did it when he won't approve Gateway Tunnels, which will bring Amtrak trains into New York and the entire Northeast.


The President did it when he said 'I'm moving out of New York, I'm moving to Florida.' Why? Because politically it helps him, he thinks, to move to Florida because maybe he can win Florida politically. He knows he's not going to win New York in the reelection. So politically he wants to move to Florida. It's always his politics first. And he uses the government to do that. It is an abuse of power. It is extortion. It is hurting New Yorkers to advance their political agenda, and we're going to fight back. Yes, I'm sure Congressman Reed and Congressman Zeldin called up the Department of Homeland Security and said, 'We want to do this politically.' It's called Homeland Security, it's a government agency, it's not called political hacks, it's not called political tool to advance the president's political agenda. The taxpayers pay for that service because it's supposed to be a bona fide service that serves the public.


Public servant does not mean you serve Trump, it means you serve the people. That's why the people pay your salary. And someone has to call them on it, and we're going to call them on it here in New York. And I want to hear what the Department of Homeland Security said its justification was, who they talked to about doing this before they did it and let them justify to New Yorkers that there was actually a bona fide connection here, which there is not. The congressman who heads the subcommittee in the House that supervises DHS says there is no connection, you don't need a DMV database to grant a global entry or trusted traveler permit. It's totally false, it's all politics. So that's what we're going to do and we're going to do it forthwith, as they say. 

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office