DHS to New York: Drop Dead

New York state in June became the 13th state to pass a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. As part of New York’s “Green Light Law,” the state also cut off the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from accessing its Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) data. This was a necessary step, according to the law’s sponsor, New York State Senator Luis Sepúlveda, to “show our courage and strength, and stand up for the marginalized communities.”

New York’s actions represent the latest stage in escalating tensions between so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions—states and cities that refuse to enforce federal immigration law—and the federal government assigned with tracking down those individuals here illegally.

For years, DHS has been at the mercy of states that refuse to work with their agents, who are benched as gruesomely violent gangs like MS-13, whose motto is “kill, rape, control,” brutalize states like New York, Maryland, and Virginia, and Americans are victimized by criminals who, if federal law had been enforced, already would have been deported. For years, Congress has continued to allow sanctuary jurisdictions to collect federal immigration enforcement money, even as these jurisdictions tout their intention to flout the law.

But on Wednesday, DHS issued its first-ever clap back.

In response to New York’s law, DHS will strip New Yorkers out of the federal “trusted traveler” programs which have served to expedite the state’s cross border trade and travel with Canada for over a decade. Instead, New Yorkers and their businesses will have to do it all the old-fashioned way: with passports, long lines, and repeated customs inspections.

There is good reason for DHS to take this step. “We need to do our job,” acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News.

It’s About More Than Licenses for Illegals

And it’s true. Though New York state may have intended only to block DHS enforcement against undocumented aliens, refusing to share DMV data cuts off a much broader swath of DHS’s ability to police for basic safety.

Due to the state’s new law, customs officers will no longer be able to see who owns the car they are inspecting or pulling over, ascertain whether or not that person is a citizen, or even be informed of any outstanding criminal warrants. This not only puts the officer at risk, but it also hamstrings his ability to identify and arrest violent criminals or help their victims.

Last year alone, New York-DHS data sharing was critical to the arrest of 149 child predators, the identification and rescue of 105 victims of human trafficking, the arrest of 230 gang members, and the seizure of 6,487 pounds of illegal narcotics, including the fentanyl and opioids that have devastated parts of rural New York.

In creating a sanctuary jurisdiction for driver’s licenses, New York has virtue-signaled its way into ensuring the protection of human traffickers and drug lords, and the future exploitation of their victims.

Consequences for Flouting the Law

In a phone call, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, accused New York of “intentionally introducing information blockages into the system.” He expressed disbelief that New York, the state at the epicenter of the September 11 terrorist attacks, itself a case study in the tragic outcomes of agencies failing to share information, would intentionally take itself backward.

New York’s law, which loosens the state’s requirements to secure a driver’s license below the federal standard, is also at odds with the 9/11 Commission, which noted in its massive report that, “For terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.”

But none of this appears to matter to the state of New York, whose Senate majority leader praised passage of the bill by declaring it the “right step forward for New York as we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.”

New York state can certainly choose to flout federal law and pursue a lobbying strategy at the expense of the safety of its citizens. But after years of sitting silently by, DHS is making clear that there will now be consequences.

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About Rachel Bovard

Rachel Bovard is senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute and Senior Advisor to the Internet Accountability Project. Beginning in 2006, she served in both the House and Senate in various roles including as legislative director for Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and policy director for the Senate Steering Committee under the successive chairmanships of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), where she advised Committee members on strategy related to floor procedure and policy matters. In the House, she worked as senior legislative assistant to Congressman Donald Manzullo (R-Il.), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-Texas). She is the former director of policy services for the Heritage Foundation. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelBovard.

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