President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are set to square off Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office over an escalated proxy battle over immigration.
The closed-door meeting comes after the Trump administration announced last week that New York state residents can no longer participate in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, due to provisions in the state’s new “Green Light Law” supporting undocumented immigrants.
The law, which went into effect in December, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for New York driver’s licenses while protecting applicants’ information from immigration enforcement agencies. The state’s attorney general said New York would sue the Trump administration over the decision to suspend the programs.
Cuomo, who called the administration’s announcement “extortion,” is expected to concede federal access to the DMV database specifically for those applying to the Trusted Traveler Program, on a case-by-case basis, during the meeting.
“The President’s administration disagrees fundamentally with the way we treat undocumented people, who, in the state of New York have the right to apply for a driver’s license because we want people who are on our roads to know how to drive and be licensed. We believe that’s in the state interest to keep our people safe. They disagree with this. They want to make political hay out of it,” Cuomo said on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday morning.
“It’s not rational. It’s extortion,” he said, calling the administration’s actions “gratuitous and retaliatory.”
“I’m going to say, if your apparent rationale is I won’t cooperate, New York state won’t cooperate with the Trusted Traveler Program, we will. We will give you whatever information you want from the DMV database, from the motor vehicles database for the Trusted Traveler Program. I’m cooperating. Will you now stop doing what you’re doing, which is gratuitous and retaliatory?” Cuomo said.
But asked about Cuomo’s assertion that the administration’s actions were politically motivated, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News the decision was about national security “and nothing else.”
“I think that it’s unfortunate that they’re calling that making this about politics. This is about the security of our country and the American people and nothing else. Information sharing is very, very important between states and the federal government, specifically DHS and ICE. It makes it impossible for DHS, ICE, CBP to do their job when they don’t have accurate information available to them,” she said during her Fox News appearance on Thursday morning.
And asked whether Trump and Cuomo could compromise, she wouldn’t say.
“It’s hard to compromise I think on national security, but I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll see what happens … We certainly hope for a constructive conversation,” Grisham said.
Since taking office, the President has become an outspoken critic of his home state of New York and Cuomo following the Manhattan district attorney’s ongoing lawsuit in pursuit of his tax returns.
Trump, a native New Yorker, officially declared himself a Florida resident last year, according to court documents. He said he was leaving the Empire State because he had been “treated very badly” by its politicians. The change was primarily for tax purposes, a person close to the President told The New York Times. Florida does not collect income tax.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Cuomo insisted that the discussion is “not personal” but rather “about the principle.” He then ribbed the President over his decision to become a Florida resident.
“He moved to Florida because he believes he’s politically viable in Florida, and he’s not politically viable in New York,” Cuomo said. “Leave New York, because he believes he can’t win here anyway because we’re a Democratic state, and if it’s a democratic state then abuse them and use them as a political pinata because it doesn’t cost you anything politically.”