Andrew Cuomo photo by Marc A. Hermann, courtesy the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York
You could say there is no love lost between President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but that’s not exactly true. Between them, the two chief executives actually have managed to make love itself a loser, along with many New Yorkers.
Just before Christmas, Cuomo vetoed a previously uncontroversial, bipartisan bill that would have allowed federal judges who sit outside the Empire State to officiate at weddings within New York’s borders. This would have accommodated, say, the daughter of a jurist from New Jersey or Connecticut who wanted to get married by her parent at Brooklyn’s Liberty Warehouse, a lovely venue that offers panoramic views of the eponymous statue, as well as New York harbor and the lower Manhattan skyline.
Nobody objects to this. But Cuomo objects vigorously to anything associated with Trump, not least the president’s nominees to the federal bench. So the governor turned thumbs down on the law.
“I cannot in good conscience support legislation that would authorize such actions by federal judges who are appointed by this federal administration,” Cuomo wrote in a brief veto message to the Legislature on Dec. 20. “President Trump does not embody who we are as New Yorkers. The cornerstones that built our great State are diversity, tolerance and inclusion. Based on these reasons, I must veto this bill.”
There is very little to add to the existing criticism of Cuomo’s decision. Observers in a variety of forums have called it petty, childish, impotent and even irrelevant. The last came from one of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan’s Upper East Side who is no particular admirer of the president.
“I’m certainly no fan of the judges this president is choosing to appoint — but since any New Yorker can become a minister online for $25 and legally perform weddings, I didn’t consider this to be a major issue,” Krueger said in a statement following the governor’s veto.
Cuomo’s decision will not impede Trump from getting married again should the need arise, either in New York or in his newly declared Florida domicile. (If it ever happened, that wedding would be the president’s fourth.) The veto won’t necessarily impede anybody else, either. As Krueger noted, New York allows weddings to be solemnized by a variety of people, including ministers who are ordained over the internet. So the non-New York judge of our example could marry her offspring at Liberty Warehouse after all – just not in her capacity as a jurist. The distinction is trivial, of no consequence to anyone except a bride or groom who might want to honor an officiant’s secular status.
I doubt there was any quid pro quo involved, but the Trump-Cuomo feud resurfaced in short order after the holidays. The Department of Homeland Security announced that New Yorkers need not apply for expedited border crossing under the Global Entry and NEXUS programs. New Yorkers currently enrolled may not renew their status, either. With a major international gateway at JFK International Airport and land borders on two Canadian provinces, international travel is a decidedly nontrivial issue in New York.
The trigger for the Homeland Security action was New York’s “Green Light” law, which took effect on Dec. 16. Under that law, New York will issue driver’s licenses to applicants who are residing in the United States illegally. (Licenses provided to these applicants will not meet Real ID standards, and so cannot be used to fly domestically as of Oct 1.) More than a dozen other states already do the same, according to NPR. But the New York statute also prohibits state motor vehicle authorities from sharing information with immigration authorities except under court order. It further requires the state to notify individuals if federal officials have sought information about them.
Disgruntled New Yorkers have observed that a driver’s license is not even required for acceptance in the expedited border-crossing programs. Besides U.S. citizens and permanent residents, Global Entry accepts Mexican nationals and citizens of nine other countries, plus Taiwan. NEXUS handles Canadians.
But the programs do require information exchange between federal and state authorities. Individuals under criminal investigation or who have convictions, pending charges or outstanding criminal warrants on a wide range of offenses are ineligible. Those offenses include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So New York’s refusal to exchange motor vehicle information with immigration authorities does, in fact, run counter to the expedited entry program requirements.
New York may not be the last jurisdiction that Homeland Security blacklists. But Cuomo was quick to allege that the honor of going first was awarded to his state in retaliation for his outspoken criticism of the Trump administration. I am not in any position to take issue with him.
Both the state and the New York Civil Liberties Union promised to go to court to challenge the ban. It would have been astonishing if they did not. I don’t like their chances very much, though. They might get lucky in district court, especially if they don’t have their case assigned to one of those Trump-appointed judges they dislike so much. But appellate courts will probably note that border security is a federal responsibility, that Washington can set pretty much any criteria it wants for programs to expedite cross-border traffic, and that the Constitution clearly subjects states to federal law. Actions have consequences. The act of refusing cooperation with federal law enforcement is apt to bring undesired responses in places far beyond New York.
The latest riposte will disappoint and inconvenience a small number of couples and a considerably larger number of New York travelers. Cuomo and Trump keep reminding us that when couples fight, they tend to make everyone around them miserable too.