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Cuomo Meets With Trump Over Trusted Traveler Programs
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo Speaking to a crown from a panel
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks Thursday before meeting with President Trump.
Credit: Cuomo's Flickr account

The relationship between New York state and the federal government “has been made difficult,” federal officials said Thursday following a meeting between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump over access to federal programs for New Yorkers that making traveling easier.

Cuomo's office said Trump is planning to follow up next week on the meeting, which was prompted by the Trump administration’s recent ban on New Yorkers re-enrolling in so-called trusted traveler programs.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said in a statement that he attended the meeting between Cuomo and Trump, and characterized it as “productive.” Still, Wolf said, the federal government’s position hasn’t changed.

“The relationship between New York State and the Federal government is very important but has been made difficult by the unilateral actions of New York State regarding the sharing of critical security information with DFS,” Wolf said.

The conflict began after New York approved a measure last year, called the Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants in the state to obtain driver’s licenses. The law also blocks the federal government from accessing New York’s DMV database.

The Trump administration, last week, said it wouldn’t allow residents of New York to re-enroll in trusted traveler programs without access to that information. The programs essentially make it easier for individuals traveling abroad to re-enter the U.S.

Other states have enacted similar laws allowing undocumented individuals to obtain driver’s licenses, but Wolf said New York’s law is more restrictive than others.

“New York is the only State that restricts CBP access to their data across the board — for law enforcement, customs, trade and travel facilitation purposes,” Wolf said. “Despite that, we will continue discussions with the State of New York to find a mutually agreeable solution.”

President Donald Trump appeared to taunt Cuomo before their meeting Wednesday, saying in a tweet that New York’s policies shouldn’t supersede those at the federal level.

“I’m seeing Governor Cuomo today at The White House. He must understand that National Security far exceeds politics,” Trump wrote. “New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes. Build relationships, but don’t bring Fredo!”

Cuomo said during a news conference earlier Thursday that he wasn’t planning to offer the federal government unfettered access to information on residents of New York.

Cuomo said this week that if any information was provided, it would only be for applicants to the trusted traveler programs, and would be done on a case-by-base basis. During the news conference Thursday, he said he wouldn’t offer anything else.

"If they think they're going to extort New York into giving them a database of undocumented people, they're wrong. I will never do that," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that if negotiations with the federal government don’t lead to reinstated access for New Yorkers to the trusted traveler programs, he’ll take his chances in court. New York has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration seeking to have its decision reversed.

Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Cuomo, said in a statement Thursday after the meeting that they still believe the Trump administration's ban on re-enrollment for New Yorkers to trusted traveler programs was motivated by politics, instead of policy.

"As the Governor previously said, we believe DHS's action was politically motivated and unwarranted as the FBI already has information regarding criminal records and TTP applicants already go through an extensive federal background check," Lever said. "The President said that this is an issue he wants to work on and that he would follow up with the Governor next week."