The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that, effective immediately, New York State residents are “no longer eligible” to enroll or re-enroll in Global Entry and three other Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP), a reaction to the state’s recent updates to its sanctuary city policies that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Chad Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, announced the news on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight and in a letter to the New York State government that was also uploaded as a PDF on the DHS website on Wednesday, February 5.
What does this mean today, for travelers? To start: New York residents who have Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST can continue to use these Trusted Traveler programs until they expire (or until this news develops further). This also doesn’t affect TSA PreCheck applications or using the Mobile Passport app—more on that in a minute.
When a member of AFAR’s New York office attempted to sign up for Global Entry on Thursday afternoon, she was allowed to complete the application and her credit card was charged the $100 fee. But soon after, the DHS updated its Trusted Traveler Programs website with an alert that reads, “Effective immediately, residents of the State of New York will no longer be eligible to apply for or renew membership in U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs due to state legislation that restricts CBP’s access to criminal history records and other critical vetting information that compromise the safety and security of the United States and its citizens.”
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in a press release that they “will cancel all pending Trusted Traveler Program applications submitted by residents of New York. Refunds will be processed automatically.” CBP says that up to 150,000-200,000 New York residents were eligible to renew memberships in Trusted Traveler Programs this fiscal year.
A call placed to DHS Headquarters to answer questions regarding Global Entry applications for New York residents—the typical path for travelers to access the DHS—was redirected to a public comment line voicemail.
This is what we know so far, as the story develops.
Why is the DHS reacting now?
Because New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act “prevents DHS from accessing New York DMV records in order to determine whether a TTP applicant or re-applicant meets program eligibility requirements, New York residents will no longer be eligible to enroll or re-enroll in CBP’s Trusted Traveler Programs,” Wolf wrote in the letter from the DHS to the New York State DMV.
The act, commonly called the “Green Light Law,” went into effect in December 2019, allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses without having to release their information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that vets people for these Trusted Traveler Programs.
What Trusted Traveler Programs does this ban affect?
Per the DHS’s letter to the New York State DMV, the ban immediately prevents New York State residents from enrolling or re-enrolling in four Trusted Traveler Programs:
- Global Entry: a program that allows participants to get through U.S. customs quicker when arriving at airports from international destinations
- NEXUS: a program that provides expedited border crossings specifically between the United States and Canada
- SENTRI: Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), another program that allows for expedited clearance for travelers arriving in the United States from Canada and Mexico
- FAST: the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program, which permits faster clearance for truck drivers with commercial shipments that cross into the United States from Mexico or Canada
The DHS also said in its letter that because the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act “hinders” it from validating documents used to establish vehicle ownership, the export of used vehicles that are titled and registered in New York State will be “significantly delayed and could also be costlier.”
Can I still sign up for TSA PreCheck?
The DHS’s letter to New York State notably omits the TSA PreCheck program in its list of Trusted Traveler Programs affected by the ban. While a Global Entry membership does include a TSA PreCheck membership in its $100 fee, you can also apply separately just for a TSA PreCheck membership, which costs $85. Unlike the Global Entry website, the TSA PreCheck website hasn’t been updated with any alerts about the DHS changes.
A TSA customer service agent confirmed via phone on Friday, February 7, that New Yorkers are still currently able to apply and enroll in the TSA PreCheck program. AFAR staffers in New York were also able to book appointments at TSA PreCheck enrollment centers in New York City on February 7.
However, when asked directly if TSA PreCheck enrollment and re-enrollment for New Yorkers would be affected, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein told AFAR, “What I can tell you is that New York residents who are currently enrolled in a Department of Homeland Security trusted traveler program such as Global Entry and TSA PreCheck will continue to receive TSA PreCheck benefits.”
There is a work-around
Because the letter from the DHS to New York does not specifically mention any restrictions for the CBP’s authorized Mobile Passport app, New Yorkers without Global Entry will still be able to use the app to skip long customs lines at 27 U.S. airports the next time they re-enter the country from an international destination. Airside Mobile, the company that oversees Mobile Passport services, confirmed that it does not anticipate any disruption in Mobile Passport services.
A preferred membership that stores your information costs $15 per year. However, if you’re willing to upload your passport information each time you land, it’s free.
Using the free version of the Mobile Passport app, I uploaded my information on Thursday afternoon as if I were landing at JFK airport to see if it still worked for a New York State resident like me. After filling out my passport information, I was approved and given a QR code that would work to circumvent the regular customs lines at JFK.
Can the federal government actually enforce this?
Many questions still remain, including whether it’s actually legal for the federal government to enact a law that affects individual states like this. “This is obviously political retaliation by the federal government and we’re going to review our legal options,” Rich Azzopardi, a senior advisor to Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, told CNN.
“Travel should not be politicized,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes said in a statement on the reported suspension. “Trusted traveler programs enhance our national security because they provide greater certainty regarding a person’s identity, citizenship, and criminal background. Suspending enrollment in Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs only undermines travel security and efficiency. We are in contact with the Department of Homeland Security to convey this message.”
This article originally appeared online on February 6, 2020. It was updated on February 7, 2020, to include current information. We will continue to update this article as more information becomes available.