My Global Entry Was Revoked After Attending A Black Lives Matter Protest In Downtown San Diego

July 28, 2020

My Global Entry membership, which is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers upon arrival in the United States, was revoked 3 days after I attended a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown San Diego. The reason given was for a DWI arrest in 2014, but I have never been arrested for DWI. My appeal and FOIA requests were denied and I have been informed my only recourse is to file a lawsuit.

I attended the Black Lives Matter protest in downtown San Diego on Sunday, May 31, 2020. During that time, being a card carrying member of the San Diego press, I photographed and recorded many officers, including several armed Department of Homeland Security agents who were protecting federal buildings. The following Tuesday, June 2, I received an email from the Customs & Border Patrol branch of the Department of Homeland Security stating that my Trusted Traveler Program membership status had changed. I immediately logged in to see that my Global Entry had been revoked. The reason given for the revocation was "due to your arrest in 2014 for 'DWI'". Being I have never been arrested for DWI, I immediately requested reconsideration in the only way I could, by completing the online form, and informed them that this was a mistake. I also sent a letter to the San Diego branch listed on my letter, as well as to the Ombudsman after my attorney finally was able to locate a physical address. On June 10, I again received an email alert and logged in only to see that the revocation was upheld.

"Upon further review, it appears you no longer meet the program's eligibility requirements at this time," wrote the unnamed Supervisor of the Global Entry Enrollment Center of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "This is due to your arrest in 2014 for 'DWI'. The final disposition of this arrest was not recorded by the court. Subsequently, this program requires you to provide certified court documentation stating the charge, severity, and the final disposition of the arrest. These court documents can be provided to the CBP Ombudsman via your TTP dashboard for final review. Failure to provide these documents will result in the arrest being recognized as a conviction. This conviction will disqualify you from this program at this time." How am I to provide court documentation about a charge that has never existed?

Eventually, both my certified letters to 2 different U.S. Customs & Border Protection offices were returned as undeliverable, but I have since sent them by regular mail. I also filed a FOIA request on June 10, to which I received a reply just 5 days later.

"CBP records indicate that your application for membership in the Trusted Traveler Program was denied because you do not meet the strict standard requirements outlined above," wrote the responding party, which identified themselves solely as 'U.S. Customs and Border Protection'. "Due to law enforcement sensitive information, we are unable to disclose specific information regarding your denial. Any responsive records have been withheld, pursuant to Title 5 U.S.C. §552 and have applied the appropriate exemptions, b(7)(E). However, not being eligible to participate in the Trusted Traveler Program does not prohibit you from being able to travel to and from the United States."

Last week, I had my attorney contact the office in Otay Mesa and was informed that someone would get back to me when the office reopens, tentatively on September 8. On July 27, my attorney received a telephone message from the "Department of Homeland Security Sentri Global Entry Enrollment Center" saying there was an update on my case. I optimistically called the office and was again informed that my membership was revoked due to an arrest for DWI. I kindly explained the situation to the gentleman on the other end of the phone. After he listened and explained he's never heard of anything like this happening before, he put me on hold to talk to his supervisor.

"Have you requested a reconsideration with the Ombudsman?", he questioned when he returned a few minutes later. "Also did you file a FOIA request to get more information about the alleged arrest?"

"Yes sir, I wrote the Ombudsman that I had never been arrested for DWI but they upheld the revocation anyway," I explained. "My FOIA request was denied and they didn't give information as how to appeal like they are apparently supposed to. I also wrote the address my attorney found online for the Ombudsman, but the letter was returned as undeliverable. Do you happen to have any address or contact information you can share?"

"Sorry, no, the Ombudsman is above us in seniority, so there is nothing we can do," the unnamed man continued.

The conversation ended with the man telling me that my only recourse would be to file a lawsuit, which he readily admitted would be an expensive and time consuming endeavor.

It was recently reported that San Diego Border Patrol agents are likely involved in the federal crackdown on protestors in Portland and Seattle. The Voice of San Diego also recently published a report revealing the San Diego Police Department accessed the city’s network of streetlight cameras to investigate Black Lives Matter protestors.

And so, here we are. Has anyone had a similar experience? Any recourse? Anyone with information on what I should do to clear my name and get my Global Entry reactivated, please email me at [email protected].