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Why Not Kick Me in the Leg?

Terry H. Schwadron

Feb. 7, 2020

I get it that Donald Trump’s broad-brush attacks on American institutions and policies too often seem unreasonable and vindictive in pursuit of his own values over the country’s.

That how we get tax cuts that favor corporations and the rich over the rest of us, or how we learn that we’re stiffing military base housing and schools because Trump wants to reallocate more federal money to a border Wall, or how pollution limits suddenly are lifted for companies.

Or yesterday’s televised one-man rant naming everyone who’s done him wrong in the last three years. I’ll admit I got a little lost in Trump blaming “people” (you mean Speaker Nancy Pelosi?) for praying for him if they don’t mean it, or Mitt Romney citing his oaths to God as meaningful in listening to truth about impeachment charges.

Still, it’s rare that he reaches into my own New York household to come up with a punitive plan.

So, here was a post-State of the Union move that says that the Trump administration will no longer allow New York residents to enroll in Global Entry or other Trusted Traveler programs, citing new “sanctuary” policies that limit federal access to state driver’s license data. That was the word dropped by Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Fox News.

For those who are scratching their heads, Global Entry and the related programs allow citizens to register with the government before to make it easier to get through airport security — either domestically or internationally. It is a program that helps the government and TSA security services as much as it does individual travelers to save processing time.

So, the result of targeting New York residents is just to lengthen security lines at the airports. These are the same security lines that are meant to keep travelers safe, of course, and the same security lines that are bollixing up airports around the country on busy travel times. Global Entry was a pre-paid way to help ease congestion. Threatening if over an unrelated fight with cities and states over “sanctuary” status just will result in new problems for people who travel frequently for business, or say performing artists trying to get to their next gig, or, as it turns out, me, in trying to get through security lines with new hips and knees.

In other words, this is not only dumb punitive policy, it is nuts for an administration that wants to promote more air traffic and business.


Wolf said he informed the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles that the state’s limits on information-sharing with U.S. Customs and Border Protection made it impossible for federal authorities to process applications for Global Entry, affecting maybe 150,000 a year. If you have Global Entry, you can still use it until it needs to be renewed.

The change here seems to derive from New York State’s decision to extend driver’s license issue to non-citizens. In any case, it certainly is a significant retaliatory move against “sanctuary cities” or states that limit local cooperation with immigration authorities. The new law also prevents federal immigration officials from accessing vehicle records without a court order.

Trump again criticized so-called sanctuary cities during his State of the Union address. It seems to have to do with New York State’s decision to extend driver’s license issue to non-citizens.

In addition to major international airports, New York also has busy border crossings with Canada, where drivers and pedestrians who cross frequently use similar identification programs. According to the Washington Post, the feds rely on DMV data to obtain criminal records, corroborate addresses and physical characteristics, and obtain vehicle and property data. By prohibiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from obtaining license plate data, even for suspects with violent criminal records, the sanctuary laws are placing federal officers at greater risk, he wrote.

Wolf also told the New York DMV that vehicle exports from the state will face significant delays because the sanctuary policies do not allow the government to verify the ownership of used vehicles being shipped abroad.

Trump singled out New York and California for criticism during his speech this week, both states that have proved electoral challenges to this president. Apparently, there will be more of this retaliatory action to come.


To be clear, law enforcement agencies in New York — and in California — do make arrests of illegal immigrants. But unless the alleged violation is for a serious crime or violent crime, New York policing agencies do not refer all arrests of possible immigration violation to the INS. Mayors and governors have made clear that it is hard enough to police crime in New York or California without sending traffic violators to the federal government for processing.

Trump consistently has over-exaggerated the degree to which individual crimes by people who turned out to be illegal immigrants could have been avoided by early identification and deportation. Studies say that immigrants have proved respo0nsible for no more crime by percentage than Americans in general.

In any event, let me remind Mr. Trump that demanding that I stand in line longer with my artificial joints to get on an airplane isn’t going to make New York streets safer. It will just make the line longer and make me remember how to vote in November.


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Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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