You Can Lose Global Entry For Complaining About A CBP Officer

A former Customs and Border Protection officer, now working with Immigration and Customers Enforcement, shared her recent experience having Global Entry taken away from her. It wasn’t because she committed a crime, or forgot to declare fruit she brought back into the country. Instead, she says it was because she complained about an officer who processed her at the border.

Global Entry lets you skip skip the immigration and customs queues when you return to the U.S. Now that I have it, it’s hard to imagine life without it — and not just queuing up at immigration, but also that I always get PreCheck at TSA now (except when I’ve been “SSSS’d”) rather than having it be hit-or-miss through my airline elite status.

However it can be taken away from you. US Customs and Border Protection responded to a FOIA request detailing each instance where Global Entry was revoked between November 6, 2016 and June 6, 2017. And that offered a window into why people were losing their ‘trusted traveler’ status. For instance,

  • A background check missed a misdemeaner, which came up later.
  • Someone received a criminal conviction while in the program.
  • The U.S. government got a complaint from another government about someone in the program.
  • Failing to delcare items brought into the country.
  • Bringing family members into the Global Entry line who aren’t enrolled in the program.

However, our ex-CBP officer (her employment checks out) explains that she “encountered an aggressive CBPO[fficer] while coming back from Mexico at the San Ysidro Port of Entry” and her friend that was traveling with her – who holds diplomatic status – “expressed her right to want to file a complaint against this CBPO.” They “requested to go to secondary inspection to file a report.”

While in secondary CBP management took pictures of us in my vehicle argued with my friend stating “they as CBP felt threatened because my friend wanted to file a complaint with the port director” and lifted our [Global Entry] cards because we “were unprofessional”.

Knowing the system, she requested “an interview with a supervisor to state my side of the story [in order to get Global Entry] back since we have no immigration, customs nor agricultural violations.”

However the supervisor “denied the request for an interview” so they’re stuck submitting a request for reinstatement to an ombudsman.

She says that in additional retaliation, “CBP management contacted my management as well as the Mexican consulate ambassadors and told them they had their non-compliant employees in secondary and held us for two hours.”

Put another way: “it’s not just customs, immigration or agriculture violations that you can get your card lifted/revoked but also for exercising your right to freedom of speech and right to file a complaint.”

I’ve been a bit cheeky going through immigration in the past. Just off a long haul flight, who wouldn’t be? One Thanksgiving, returning from India, I was asked for the purpose of my trip and I replied, “I wanted to have Thanksgiving dinner with Indians.” I got a perplexed look, but if I’d been deemed insufficiently differential the result could have been different.

Of course anyone trying to do anything nefarious is doing their best to avoid calling undue attention to themselves. The last thing they’re going to do is file a complaint about an employee and ask to go to secondary. Anyone who asks to go to secondary is – almost by definition – not someone that should have their Global Entry revoked. But then someone wound up on the No Fly List as retaliation for refusing to become an FBI informant.

Those in power will, naturally, abuse that power. It’s Madison, in a nutshell: if all men were angels, there’d be no need for government; if government were to be run by angels there’d be no need for constraints; but it’s precisely because men are to rule over other men that we must first empower and then constrain.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I had an almost identical experience at that same crossing, but understood a bit better than this person that I don’t live in a free country and that I should consider the ramifications of complaining.

    I was also crossing at San Ysidro back into San Diego after spending a night in Tijuana – my week of stressful business in San Diego ended on a friday afternoon and I was able to get a super cheap Mint flight back the next day so thought I would use the opportunity to eat some tacos, stay at the new Hyatt Place, and have a civilized flight home on Saturday rather than an redeye in Y. I used my Global Entry to beat most of the massive line on my way to SAN and stood with my suit bag before an Officer bulked up on Steroids who was outfitted in full military-style regalia and dark sunglasses, with a bad case of roid rage. He questioned me loudly, hysterically, and altogether unprofessionally and responded with incredible sarcasm at my answers insinuating that I was there for nefarious activities and cross-examining me as if I were a criminal. I answered his questions consistently and as concisely as possible, and after 10 minutes of this he let me go with a final insulting comment. Welcome to the USA!

    Anyway, I was quite annoyed, and considered asking for a Supervisor after he let me go, but I knew that it would be a futile gesture and given that I (used to) travel constantly, didn’t want to have to deal with retaliation that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about.

    Most Americans don’t travel and think this sort of thing is normal, and if you know better, its best to keep your head low and grin and bare it.

  2. She sounds like a real bitch. I’m 100% percent certain the “friend” was throwing their diplomatic passport around and they didn’t feel like they should be subject to inspection like everyone else. Sometimes not being able to keep your mouth shut has a price. I would have shredded their cards in front of them.

    If they really wanted to enter without any hassles, all they had to do was go a few miles east and walk though one one of the unfinished sections of wall. While they’re there, they could have gotten welfare, housing, a cash stipend and a plane ticket to a place of their choosing.

  3. Flight attendants are pretty close to getting this kind of power. In fact, they can already ban you from their airline for hurting their feelings, and that is probably a worse consequence than losing global entry. The Chinese Social credit system is slowly creeping in to America.

  4. I recently wrote in a long complaint about CBP at the connection processing, who were acting unprofessional at let us wait for hours. Hope my GE is good…

  5. CHRIS, “Sometimes not being able to keep your mouth shut has a price”. Your price is to be called out for what you are: a world-class a**hole. In the same comment, you manage to tell others to shut up while spreading your hateful opinions. You know what? YOU SHUT UP!

    Just as an fyi, even if the bile you spew were true, they wouldn’t qualify for welfare because they’re probably wealthier than you. They certainly have better manners: they didn’t disrespect anyone by insulting them, unlike you. Hope one day you’re on the receiving end of one of your power-tripping pals, see how it feels to be mistreated for no reason. Of course, when it does happen, you’ll find some racially aggravated reason why they were singling you out.

  6. Americans have to jump through hoops to get GE – while every European gets better that GE all over Europe.

    While this may have changed since Covid – in most European countries if you have an EU passport you put your passport in the unattended passport gate, the passport is rad and your photo compared to your actual face – and the door opens and you are done with immigration. No need to speak with an immigration officer.

    Then customs is a breeze – go through the green channel, and you are highly unlikely to have an interaction with a customs officer.

    In fact, as an American (at least pre-Covid), you are allowed to use the automated gates – meaning that Americans have more hassle free entry to the UK than they have to the US even with Global Entry. Even though I have GE, most of the time I have found there is still some interaction with an immigration officer. In the UK and Europe interaction with an officer is rare if you use the automated gates.

  7. As someone very familiar with this POE, CBP’s actions were correct. She brought her non-GE friend with her into the GE line, which is grounds for removal. This is clear cut and all the hyperbole is just blogspam.

  8. Johnny Cakes says: She brought her non-GE friend with her into the GE line, which is grounds for removal.

    Oh, that’s a good point. That would be consistent with some other stories seen on this blog, like the one about the parents who brought their small child into the GE line.

  9. CHRIS sounds like a real misogynist — probably one who has other prejudices that favor the use of the very bigoted profiling that should be illegal.

    I look forward to seeing the GE status reinstated for this former CBP employee and another management reassignment like we saw at LA.

  10. Having a diplomatic passport doesn’t equate with ineligibility for GE.

    Johnny Cakes wants the CBP’s actions to be perceived as correct.

    If the GE status is reinstated for the former CBP employee, then that’s a clear sign of CBP being in the wrong yet again.

  11. CBP operate by their own rules outside of regular citizen level expectations of US law enforcement. These examples and my own experiences reinforce that they have zero accountability nor do they follow typical rules that Americans expect as citizens.

    You are subject to the whim and moods of whichever tax payer funded goon is processing your line and there is no way to escalate to a supervisor if you as a citizen are being mistreated or having your rights violated. You’ll get thrown in secondary like a drug smuggler or holding like a coyote if you do anything but defer to their absolute power.

  12. Passing through security for the domestic leg of an international flight, a TSA agent manhandled my passport to the point where I had to say, “please don’t damage it!”

  13. @Ruth
    Please describe “manhandled” and did he stop damaging it…..because that’s what they do when you hand them passports.

  14. @Mike
    The country is falling apart while being led by an octogenarian in a vegetative state…..but hey at least we don’t have mean tweets!

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