ZAHR K. SAID didn’t think much about her inability to check in online for her flight home to Seattle after an October business trip in Beijing. She also didn’t worry too much about being twice singled out for additional screening before boarding her flight and again at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint at Seattle International Airport.
The Intercept The University of Washington law professor assumed the heightened security measures might have been linked to an annual weeklong Communist conference in China. But when she had similar difficulties checking in for an October 26 flight to Irvine, California, Said realized it was more than just an anomaly. She was puzzled that, despite having Global Entry clearance, which allowed her expedited entry through airport security and customs, she had become a target for airport questioning and invasive pat-downs.
Three days later, Said got an email from CBP notifying her that her Global Entry clearance had been revoked. Said spoke to the enrollment office at the Seattle airport, which told her that the revocation came from a higher office responsible for vetting procedures, she said.
“I live in Seattle. I have children. I have two stepchildren. I have a husband. I teach yoga.” Said, 41, told The Intercept. “It all makes me who I am — and I feel all of those things evaporate in a second when TSA or CBP seem to make it about me having a Yemeni father or being born in Lebanon.”
But Said is not alone. She is one of hundreds of travelers with a Muslim, Arab, or South Asian background whose Global Entry clearances were revoked, in what lawyers and civil rights activists say is a de facto extension of the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban.
As reported by Bloomberg, the US Customs and Border Protection revoked — without any explanation or warning — the memberships of some Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs members, including NEXUS, Secure Electronic Network and Free and Secure Trade.
According to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the dozens of complaints it received, American citizens whose memberships were revoked didn’t know about it until they tried to travel.
Some people who claimed that their memberships in the Global Entry and other trusted traveler programs were revoked were US citizens originally from countries that were not included in the ban, such as India, Lebanon and Pakistan. A spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said that he was “fairly certain” that people were removed from the program(s) based on their names.
Global Entry is one of four CBP Trusted Traveler Programs that allow vetted U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and nationals from nine countries expedited entry through airport security and customs.
In order to obtain Global Entry clearance, applicants must provide biometric records and undergo interviews and background checks. Days after President Donald Trump signed a hotly contested executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, about 30 Muslim and Arab travelers in the United States reported to ADC that CBP revoked their Global Entry clearances, according to immigration attorneys Andrew Free and Greg Siskind, who filed a lawsuit on ADC’s behalf.
“What has happened, in practice, is that Muslims who were once able — by the virtue of Global Entry — to escape the constant racial and ethnic profiling they faced when traveling have now been suddenly, and without explanation, denied that privilege,” Free told The Intercept. “The only thing they all have in common is that nothing has changed in their own personal situations, and, of course, the reality of their own identities.”