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Politics and Government

Cuomo offers Trump DMV data but no Social Security numbers


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s governor is offering to allow federal officials access to the state’s motor vehicle database but not to drivers’ Social Security numbers in an effort to persuade the Trump administration to let state residents back into Global Entry and other frequent traveler programs.

It’s the latest compromise that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is publicly floating in hopes President Donald Trump’s administration will reverse its decision announced earlier this month to prevents New Yorkers from enrolling or re-enrolling in programs that let them skip long security lines at airports. But the Trump administration rejected the idea when he proposed it privately weeks ago, according to Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi.

New York state has also sued to reverse the ban, arguing the Department of Homeland Security’s move is meant to punish the state for enacting a law that lets immigrants in the country illegally get driver’s licenses and bars federal immigration agents from accessing state motor vehicle records.

“The Social Security numbers are the indicator of documented or undocumented, and I will never give them the Social Security numbers in the DMV database — over my dead body will I do that,” Cuomo said in a Friday radio appearance.

Last week, Cuomo met with Trump and said he offered a slightly different compromise: allowing federal officials access to the state driving records of applicants to traveler programs who undergo a sit-down interview with federal officials and supply documents such as a passport.

Cuomo said the Trump administration has also slowed the process of exporting used vehicles from New York as customs officials argue they need access to state DMV data to verify vehicles’ ownership.

Trump administration officials have said the decision was necessary because New York’s new law had endangered public safety by making it tougher for immigration and border agents to quickly confirm someone’s identification, check for fugitive warrants or see if a person has a criminal record. They have denied that federal immigration officials want access to the state’s DMV database to obtain lists of immigrants in the country illegally.

Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James have said New York’s law still ensures law enforcement has access to the information it needs to do its job. Federal officials, for example, can access the FBI’s criminal database. New York’s law also allows for the release of state motor vehicle records to immigration agencies under a judicial warrant, court order.

New York is among more than a dozen states that have passed laws allowing people who are not legal U.S. residents to get driver’s licenses. But each state differs when it comes to whether and how federal immigration officials can access state motor vehicle records.

Full statement from Cuomo:

In response to the acting ICE director's statements, I want to again make my position clear: I have said from Day 1 we will never allow the DMV database to be used for immigration purposes. The Trump administration has been increasing their threats to hold New Yorkers hostage to their demand to turn over the DMV database for ICE and Customs and Border Protection to use to aid their deportation of innocent law abiding undocumented families.

Every situation they have raised I have answered. We can provide trusted travel information. We can provide the automobile export industry information. What they really want and what we can't provide is use of the DMV data for immigration purposes. Period. Their extortion and bullying will not work in New York.

In addition, as many national, state and local law enforcement agencies currently have access to our DMV database and the potential for surreptitious access to the database is very real, I am exploring alternatives to minimize the harm caused by unauthorized use of our database such as removal of social security numbers - which could be used to evidence undocumented status - and increasing the penalty for unauthorized use of the DMV database.

The Trump administration's increasing attempts to extort New York State compliance by inconveniencing law abiding citizens will not be effective. I will never allow use of the DMV database for immigration actions.