Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf went on white supremacist Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to announce that all New York residents will be barred from applying to or reenrolling in Global Entry and other “trusted traveler programs.” Now, many national media outlets have accepted at face value DHS’ explanation that it was because a new driver’s license law in the state prevented access to information to help with vetting, rather than acknowledging it was political retribution.
As HuffPost reported, Wolf sent a letter to New York state officials explaining that DHS took this action because of the state’s Green Light law, which allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a New York driver’s license, and which also “prohibits personal information held by the Department of Motor Vehicles to be used by DHS or its agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.”
Major national news organizations, including USA Today, Reuters, and Politico, accepted and parroted this explanation in their reports on the announcement -- even though Trump had singled out “New York’s sanctuary policies” for criticism the day before in his State of the Union address, and the Green Light law was passed and signed back in June and went into effect in December. Some others, such as The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Wall Street Journal, only included an opposing statement from an adviser to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling it “obviously political retaliation.”
In contrast, The Washington Post described the move as “one of the Trump administration’s most significant retaliatory moves against ‘sanctuary cities’ and other jurisdictions that limit local cooperation with federal immigration authorities.” Forbes included quotes critical of the policy from former government officials and an immigration reporter. And this from CNN strongly suggests that DHS’ stated reason for barring New Yorkers from these programs is false:
Former acting ICE Director John Sandweg told CNN that sanctuary policies do not affect how the Department of Homeland Security vets people for Global Entry and other Trusted Traveler Programs.
"This is just irrational in the sense that sanctuary policies in no way shape or form affect DHS' ability to vet people for global entry and other trusted traveler programs," he said.
"It's ridiculous, and it's politicizing a program that's not about politics. It's trying to match two totally unrelated things. It's just ridiculous," he said, adding, "It's the kind of thing that's going to, frankly, politicize the department in a way that's going to undermine its mission moving forward."
There are also other ways news organizations could have covered the Trump administration’s claims instead of simply repeating them. Marco Lopez, former chief of staff for Customs and Border Patrol, wrote on Twitter that the move “makes all air travelers less safe.” Former Department of Defense public affairs official Adam Blickstein declared that it “imperils US national security.”
Constitutional law expert Neal Katyal said the move wasn’t constitutional, and immigration law expert David Leopold described it as “an act of collective punishment worthy of a dictatorship.”
And other journalists and political commentators pointed out the obvious: It was blatant political retribution against a state that opposed Trump’s policies.