Federal prosecutors decry lack of DMV record sharing under Green Light

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District joined federal prosecutors from several other regions on New York on Monday in characterizing the portion of state's Green Light Law that prevents the Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing information with immigration enforcement agencies. 

Western District U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy and three of his colleagues issued a joint statement criticizing the provision of the controversial law while suggesting it has a "much broader adverse effect on law enforcement and public safety." In addition to Kennedy, the statement was endorsed by Southern District U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue and U.S. Attorney Grant Jaquith. 

"The disturbing truth is that under the newly enacted statute, the Customs and Border Protection Officers working today at New York’s 13 ports of entry – which include both the busiest port on the entire northern border of the United States (the longest land border in the world), and the busiest international air passenger gateway into North America – are unable even to check the registration or the driver’s license status of individuals presenting themselves for admission into our country," the federal prosecutors said in their statement. 

The criticism comes in the wake of an announcement by the Department of Homeland Security about a prohibition that will bar New Yorkers from participating in the Trusted Traveler Program, which includes NEXUS and other pre-approved traveler programs that allow people to use expedited lanes at airports and international borders.

Under the Department of Homeland Security’s ban, New Yorkers will no longer be eligible to apply for or renew membership in U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Programs. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced last week that they intend to file a lawsuit aimed at overturning the ban, which they characterized as "politically motivated" by the Trump administration. 

Kennedy and his three colleagues argued that the provision of Green Light that bars the sharing of information impedes the United States Department of Homeland Security's ability to conduct active criminal investigations involving citizens and non-citizens who are lawfully present in the United States, not just those who are undocumented. They noted that on a daily basis Homeland Security agents and officers use DMV information to assist them in stopping criminal activity, including offenses involving drug trafficking and money laundering. 

They said officers and Homeland Security agents frequently use DMV information to check identification and vehicle registration information, identify fugitives, conduct surveillance establish probable cause as needed to secure search and arrest warrants and make decisions about when and where to initiate motor vehicle stops. 

In their statement, the U.S. attorneys argued that lack of access to DMV information "poses a grave risk" to the safety of officers and agents who must now "blindly interact" with people who may be "terrorists or other violent criminals, drug dealers, human traffickers, or child predators." 

The prohibition on information sharing, they argued, would allow more criminals to "enter and roam freely" in New York and the United States.  

"Our citizens, lawful permanent and temporary residents, visitors, and undocumented immigrants deserve better, and so do those who serve and protect them," the statement reads. "Restoring collaboration and information sharing furthers our effort to secure justice for all, preserve public safety, protect individual rights, and promote due process, bringing us ever closer to a sanctuary built on the rule of law and fairness for everyone."

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