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Katko offers to help Cuomo resolve NY travel dispute with feds

Syracuse.com logo Syracuse.com 2/6/2020 By Mark Weiner, syracuse.com

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. John Katko said Thursday he’s willing to help Gov. Andrew Cuomo resolve a dispute with President Donald Trump’s administration that led to New Yorkers being barred from “trusted traveler” programs.

Katko sent Cuomo a letter offering to serve as an intermediary after the Department of Homeland Security said it will no longer allow New Yorkers to enroll in programs that give travelers expedited clearance for international travel and border crossings.

“I’m happy to be the go-between on this one,” Katko, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee told Syracuse.com 5/8 The Post-Standard.

Homeland Security officials blamed their decision on New York’s policies to limit federal access to state driver’s license data for criminal background checks.

The policy changed when New York began offering driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in December. The state wanted to prevent the federal government from targeting those without legal status.

Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., called the Trump administrative move political retribution for the state’s decision.

Katko, R-Camillus, said he told Cuomo in his letter that the state should be able to find a way to give the federal government the access it needs. He said California and 14 other states that offer licenses to undocumented immigrants have managed to share information from their DMV database.

“They are the only state in the country that doesn’t allow federal officials to enter their database,” Katko said of New York.

The other states have reached separate agreements with federal authorities that prohibit state DMV data from being used for immigration enforcement, Katko said.

He said that New York’s position is disturbing, given that the state was Ground Zero during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After the attacks, the 911 Commission criticized the lack of information sharing among government agencies as a weakness that made the nation vulnerable to future attacks.

“This is how they do their verification and keep people safe,” Katko said, referring to the Department of Homeland Security. “This is how they keep terrorists from slipping through.”

Katko said he was not notified in advance of the federal decision, but he said he understands why Homeland Security officials imposed the ban on New York.

Katko said he spoke by phone Thursday morning with Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf about the federal decision, and agreed New York has to do something to change its policy.

“It’s completely illogical to me what they’re doing,” Katko said of state officials. “I wish it never came to this. But I don’t think Homeland Security had a choice.”

Contact Mark Weiner: Email 5/8 Twitter 5/8 Facebook 5/8 571-970-3751

Read more

Who’s affected by Trump’s crackdown on NY’s ‘trusted travelers’

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