The federal government suspended Global Entry and many other Trusted Traveler Programs for New York residents last week, walling off the popular program for both new applicants and current members who need to renew.
While TSA PreCheck remains unaffected and current Global Entry members can continue using the program, the Department of Homeland Security’s move has caused an uproar. The federal government pointed to the state’s recent laws that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and ban the state from sharing DMV records with federal immigration authorities, arguing it needs that information to vet Global Entry applicants.
Is there any hope for a resolution that could unfreeze Global Entry for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers? What other options do they have? And while New York is the only state currently in the federal government’s crosshairs, are other states at risk?
New Yorkers’ Global Entry Suspended … for Now
The suspension of Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler Programs like NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST came swiftly and unexpectedly. And so did New York’s response.
The suit calls the Global Entry freeze political retribution, arguing it’s meant only to push New York to change its so-called Green Light laws. Attorney General Letitia James said it will affect the state’s safety, security, and economy.
There’s also a broader question of why the federal government needs driver’s license data at all, considering criminal records are available elsewhere. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman told the New York Times that DMV records contain driving offenses that the federal government can’t otherwise access.
Still, there’s potential for a resolution outside of the courts.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was expected to meet with President Donald Trump on Thursday with a potential deal. The Democratic governor said he’ll offer to give limited access to records only for New Yorkers who are applying for a Trusted Traveler Program.
Whether that will thaw the tension between New York and the White House remains unclear. Federal officials had not responded to the offer at the time of publication.
“I’m calling their bluff by saying, ‘You said you want access to the DMV database for TTP? I’ll give it to you,'” Cuomo told a radio host, according to CNN.
Can’t Get Global Entry? Here’s the Next Best Thing
As the drama unfolds, what can New Yorkers do?
If you currently have Global Entry, you don’t have to worry until your expiration date comes up. But renewals of Global Entry and other programs are suspended. And that means the one-year grace period for extending a membership will not apply.
The next best bet for getting through U.S. customs and immigration is Mobile Passport, a smartphone app. This app is simple and easy to use – after landing back in the U.S., just open the app, take a photo, enter your information, and head for the Mobile Passport queue. It’s available at more than 25 U.S. airports, and it can be nearly as fast as Global Entry – if not faster.
And while it’s free to start, you can pay $15 per year for full functionality – so you can store your information in the app rather than type it in every time.
Of course, losing Global Entry is a double whammy, as it also gets you TSA PreCheck. That’s your ticket to get through airport security in a faster lane, keeping shoes and a jacket on and liquids and electronics in your bag. PreCheck isn’t affected by the suspension, so you could apply separately for the program at $85 for a five-year membership.
Thrifty Tip: Use one of these credit cards to apply for PreCheck and you’ll get reimbursed for the cost!
What About Other States?
New York isn’t the only state with these laws on the books. The federal government hasn’t cracked down on any other state – at least not yet.
Fifteen other states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
But banning the federal government from accessing those records is another matter. New Jersey recently adopted similar legislation, but that doesn’t take effect until January 2021, Conde Nast Traveler reports. Virginia lawmakers are currently working to pass similar restrictions.
Federal officials haven’t said whether they’ll target these or any other states.
While there’s some hope for a quick resolution, this drama surrounding Global Entry in New York could drag on. And while it hasn’t yet, it could spread to other states.