New York to sue US over ouster from Trusted Traveler programs

CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. (WCAX) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling for a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security. It's over the ban on New York's Trusted Traveler Program. New York residents who have paid for special travel cards are now banned from using them by the feds. Friday, the governor called the ban politically motivated.

"This will hurt the state economically. It will hurt business. It will hurt regions of the state. It will hurt Buffalo, western New York, where you have the Peace Bridge, where you have a lot of traffic going back and forth and they use what's called the NEXUS program which is one of these programs. It'll hurt northern New York, the Adirondacks and the Canada border," said Cuomo, D-New York.

Our Kelly O'Brien looks into what this means for the region.

Local lawmakers and residents have a lot of concerns, from what this could mean for our economy to the convenience of travel. Assemblyman Billy Jones says something needs to be done about this and it needs to be done quickly.

Chris Trombley is a resident of Champlain, New York, a member of Clinton County Emergency Services and an avid traveler to Canada, sometimes two or three times a week.

"We go over to Tim Hortons all the time just to grab a cup of coffee or to hit the local meat market," Trombley said.

He and his wife are Global Entry members, which is part of the federal Trusted Traveler program. Global Entry is a program that prechecks travelers and gives them a clearance saying they are low risk for crossing international lines.

The Trombleys recently renewed their NEXUS card, which is a program within Global Entry that is specific for Canada and U.S. travels. The card works similar to a passport and cuts their wait time at the border almost in half.

"The nice thing is the minute you pull up you're identified because you've taken the steps to enroll in this program and go through all the necessary steps," Trombley said.

Trombley and others, like Assemblyman Billy Jones, have concerns about the Department of Homeland Security's latest decision to stop New York's Global Entry Program.

"We have many people who work back and forth through the border and this is going to affect them. It's going to affect their daily lives and business and our economy. We need to fix this," said Jones, D-Plattsburgh.

New York's New Green Light law started in December. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia all have passed the law which allows undocumented immigrants a driver's license but New York is the only state to receive a halt on new travelers. Jones says that's because the state removed some authority from federal agencies.

"Unintended consequences we're the only state that cut off access to our DMV database to our federal partners in the border patrol and customs," Jones explained.

Jones says he's proposed an amendment to the law to make a change adding that the federal agents can have access to the records.

"We don't know who people are coming back and forth through this border-- it's a national security issue," he said.

The assemblyman says that something needs to be worked out between the state and the federal government to make this right for the people of New York.

"Cooler heads have to prevail, we have to get to the table, we have to get to a settlement where this works," Jones said.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, chastised Gov. Cuomo over Green Light law, saying: "...I warned Governor Cuomo that this irresponsible policy would inhibit our CBP officers at the Northern Border from doing their jobs. Qualified, legal citizens should not be penalized by the Governor's unconscionable actions"

Right now, this halt is just for land travel but Jones fears what it could mean for the entire state's economy if air travel is added to the ban.

We should note this is a ban to enroll in or renew with the program. If you already have it, you are fine until you need to renew.