Donald Trump | AP Photo
NEW YORK — President Donald Trump is giving New York the California treatment.
Wednesday night’s surprise suspension of Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs for New Yorkers put a Trump administration target on New York, an escalation that comes after weeks of feuding over the state’s immigrant-friendly policies.
The latest actions — which state and New York City officials call political retaliation — foist New York into a position familiar to California, which has long borne the brunt of policy blows from an administration unhappy about its liberal approach to governance.
The Department of Homeland Security announced it will block New Yorkers from enrolling in programs that allow vetted travelers to breeze through airport lines, including the popular Global Entry program that can cut hours off of time spent in customs lines. The administration blamed a new state law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
“As we get closer to the November election, we’re going to see more and more of these unhinged efforts,” said Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “Donald Trump thinks that states like New York and California are convenient foils for him to throw red meat to his base.”
New York’s turn in the crosshairs comes after the Trump administration has used its policy powers to hammer California — prohibiting the state from setting its own standards for vehicle admissions, launching an anti-trust investigation into its agreements with automakers, threatening to yank its highway funds, and suing over its cross-border climate pact with Quebec.
The feds even issued violations over alleged water contamination from needles and human waste generated by the homeless population.
Now it’s Trump’s disavowed home state that has become the focus of his ire.
“It really looks like President Trump is obsessed with New York City and New York state and the way we protect immigrants here,” Choi said, noting the state was the only one targeted for travel restrictions although 14 other states provide driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has also ramped up its efforts to target New York City over its sanctuary city policies.
Federal officials seized on the murder of a 92-year old woman by a man from Guyana in the country illegally — blaming Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration for failing to turn the man over in response to a federal request to detain him after a previous arrest. Under city law, most detainer requests from federal immigration authorities are not honored.
Federal prosecutors sued the city for information about the accused murderer and another immigrant, after slapping the city with subpoenas they said were not honored.
Trump highlighted his conflict with New York in his State of the Union speech this week.
“If the city had honored ICE’s detainer request, his victim would still be alive today,” he said.
Amid the escalating tensions, ICE agents shot a man in Brooklyn Thursday while trying to apprehend a Mexican immigrant.
The administration is turning to new tactics after its previous efforts to punish New York and other sanctuary cities largely fizzled. Trump threatened to withhold all federal funds, but ended up being able to target only a handful of grants, which have been caught up in a court battle.
New York can learn from California’s experience, said Manuel Pastor, a professor at the University of Southern California whose book “State of Resistance” chronicles the West Coast state’s tangles with Trump.
“Get ready for a fight. The Trump administration has obliterated the usual lines of restraint in terms of the use of government for political purposes,” he said. “The Trump administration is now emboldened by the fact that it was able to avoid impeachment and it’s looking for election-year opportunities to be able to advertise its anti-immigrant stance and anti-coastal stance.”
Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said Thursday that the enrollment ban will remain in place unless New York reverses its driver’s license law and warned that other states could face similar penalties for sanctuary laws.
The measure bars new or renewed enrollments in programs including NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST, in addition to Global Entry. TSA Precheck is not currently affected, but could be added in the future, Cuccinelli said.
“Obviously, we would urge New York to undo that law and restore some sanity, ” Cuccinelli said on a call with reporters.
Legal challenges to the driver’s license law, which also prohibits the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles from sharing driver information with federal immigration authorities, have been dismissed.
“Despite President Trump’s attempt to punish New Yorkers for passing its own laws and standing up to his xenophobic policies, New York will not back down. Already, 13 additional states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws to the one the Trump Administration cites in its letter, so we will resist efforts that target New Yorkers and cut off our access to Global Entry or any other Trusted Traveler Program,” said state Attorney General Tish James.
“I will continue to vigorously defend New York laws and our state’s residents against the president’s vindictive actions,” she said. “New Yorkers will not be targeted or bullied by an authoritarian thug.”
The move could come at a cost in a global financial center, where frequent business travelers rely on the programs for efficient travel.
“We’re a global city, and business depends on easy international travel and entry. This is certainly punitive not just to New York City and state, but to major global companies in New York,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the Partnership for New York City. “It comes at a price to the national economy. It hardly seems in the country’s economic interest.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio branded the policy political retaliation, and said they would review legal options. “This is clearly nothing more than showmanship and demonstrates the Trump Administration’s approach to everything: childish retribution based in racism,” said de Blasio press secretary Freddi Goldstein.
The traveler programs decision could be a bad sign for another major New York initiative that’s awaiting federal approval: The $13.7 billion Gateway tunnel project, which would create a new rail link under the Hudson River, replacing the century-old, rapidly deteriorating tubes that now carry trains to Penn Station.
Federal funding for the project has been repeatedly denied — and tied to a feud between the president and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of the biggest tunnel boosters and a New York Democrat.
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not really after you,” said Jerry Zaro, a real estate lawyer who chairs the Gateway Program Development Corp. “We have become the piñata — the New York-New Jersey region — the piñata of the Trump administration.”
Ryan Hutchins and Stephanie Beasley contributed to this report