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Verify: Could Trusted Traveler ban expand to California?

Could Californians lose their SENTRI privileges after CBP banned New Yorkers from the program over a law giving undocumented immigrants driver's licenses?

SAN DIEGO — Last week, Customs and Border Protection announced it would not allow residents of New York state to enroll or renew in the Trusted Traveler program. Homeland Security claimed it could not thoroughly screen applicants because a new state law prevented agents from accessing driving records.

Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI programs allow approved travelers expedited entry into the United States when returning from abroad. SENTRI is a popular option for Californians because it allows users to use a special lane when driving or walking across the border from Mexico.

In December, New York passed a law that allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses and prohibits the DMV from giving driving records to the federal government. CBP argues it needs the data to screen for criminal records that are held by the DMV. Since it can’t thoroughly screen applicants, Homeland Security decided to prohibit New York residents from applying or renewing in Trusted Traveler programs.

In 2015, California began allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license under A.B. 60., however, the license includes a disclaimer “federal limits apply” on the top right corner. Data from the license is then entered into a DMV database.

The DMV explains, “Information available to law enforcement includes name, date of birth, residence and/or mailing address, photos, as well as conviction information, accidents, and any licensing actions taken by the department. Information available in these systems does not indicate the applicant’s Social Security number, or whether the individual applied under A.B. 60. In addition, these systems do not contain the documents an applicant used to establish their identity, true full name, California residency, or legal presence. As set out above, those documents are only available to law enforcement in response to a criminal subpoena, a court order, or a certification from law enforcement attesting to an urgent health or safety need for the release of the documents.”

CBP has not said whether the Trusted Traveler ban will expand beyond New York residents, but at this point, California currently appears to share data at the center of the controversy with CBP. However, polices and requirements can change.