Border officials allow asylum seekers to apply for entry to the United States via mobile app

Border officials allow asylum seekers to apply for entry to the United States via mobile app

Border officials allow asylum seekers to apply for entry to the United States via mobile app

Washington – U.S. border officials Thursday began allowing some asylum seekers to use a free mobile app to request the option of being processed at an official port of entry. It’s part of a strategy the Biden administration hopes to deter migrants from entering the United States illegally.

Eligible migrants in Mexico who use the app will be granted an appointment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at a port of entry, where officials will determine whether they should be permitted to enter the country under from humanitarian exemptions to a pandemic-era rule known as Title 42 that limited asylum claims.

The mobile app extension, called CBP One, was first showcased by President Biden last week when he unveiled a new border strategy which has combined increased deportations for those crossing the southern border illegally, with expanded opportunities for migrants with US-based sponsors to enter the country legally.

migrants asylum US-Mexico border
Immigrants wait overnight next to the US-Mexico border fence to seek asylum in the United States on January 7, 2023, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Getty Images


The Port of Entry nomination process is separate from another Biden administration program that will allow up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to fly to the United States each month if U.S. citizens or nationals other persons in the United States with legal status agree to sponsor them.

Migrants from central or northern Mexico who hope to be processed at a port of entry will need to prove they have a government-identified vulnerability to earn a Title 42 exemption, which allows U.S. border officials to quickly deport migrants. migrants for public health reasons, without allowing them to apply for asylum.

Vulnerabilities DHS will consider include physical or mental illness, disability, pregnancy, and lack of safe housing or shelter in Mexico, according to the app’s guidelines. Migrants under 21 or over 70 and those who were victimized in Mexico will also be considered for the process.

In a statement on Thursday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the port of entry program an “innovative solution.”

“When Title 42 is finally lifted, this new feature will join one of the many tools and processes this administration provides for individuals to seek protection in a safe, orderly, and humane manner and to strengthen the security of our borders,” said Mayorkas.

In addition to attesting to their vulnerability, the CBP One app will ask migrants to submit biographical information about themselves and their families, as well as a photo of their face. They will then receive an appointment up to 14 days in advance to report to one of eight ports of entry in Arizona, California or Texas.

Those selected for an appointment will not be guaranteed entry to the United States, DHS officials said, noting that CBP officers have broad discretion to grant or deny migrants permission to enter. enter the country during inspections at a point of entry.

The application process will be free, and questions on the CBP One application are available in English and Spanish. The process will also mean that migrants seeking a Title 42 humanitarian exemption will no longer need to be referred by nongovernmental organizations, which have sent lists of vulnerable migrants to the US government in recent months.

Under this program, the Biden administration processed thousands of port-of-entry asylum seekers each month. In November, the last month for which data is available, port of entry officials processed 20,696 migrants under Title 42 humanitarian exemptions, according to government statistics filed in federal court.

Ukrainians and Russians on US-Mexico border pressure Biden's immigration restrictions
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers check the passports of Ukrainian refugees seeking to enter the United States at the border bridge at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, March 20, 2022.

Bloomberg


Although it is illegal to cross the United States between ports of entry, US asylum law allows migrants on US soil to seek asylum regardless of how they entered the country. country. But the government used Title 42 to partially suspend the asylum law, deporting hundreds of thousands of migrants without a hearing or interview. Migrants were also generally barred from seeking asylum at Ports of Entry under Title 42.

After championing it as a key public health measure for more than a year, the Biden administration tried to end Title 42 in the spring of 2022, but Republican-led states convinced a judge to block the termination. .

Then, in November, another federal judge ruled Title 42 illegal. His order, however, was stayed by the Supreme Court, who kept title 42 in place at the request of the group of Republican-controlled states that have argued that ending the policy will fuel an even greater increase in border arrivals.

While the Biden administration’s recently announced strategy includes an expansion of Title 42 to deport migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti who were previously not subject to the policy, the expansion of the CBP One app could open up the US asylum system to significant numbers of stranded migrants. in Mexico.

Andrea Flores, a former National Security Council official who worked on border issues during the first year of the Biden administration, called the new port-of-entry process “long overdue,” saying it “advances President Biden’s original promise to reopen access to the asylum system.”

“Allowing migrants to register for a Title 42 exemption is a more humane alternative than leaving them vulnerable to misinformation from smugglers,” Flores told CBS News. “This kind of innovation in border treatment is the future of orderly migration on the southern border.”

Still, some asylum seeker advocates have raised concerns about the new process, saying it would exclude destitute migrants who don’t have access to Wi-Fi or phones, as well as those who don’t speak English or Spanish. , or who are facing imminent danger in Mexico and looking forward to having an appointment.

“It will exclude the most vulnerable migrants,” said Erika Pinheiro, executive director of Al Otro Lado, a California-based group that offers legal advice to asylum seekers in Mexico.

Priscilla Orta, a South Texas-based attorney who represents migrants for the group Project Corazon, criticized the CBP One app’s vulnerability guidelines, saying they don’t explicitly consider LGBTQ migrants as vulnerable.

“The world knows that some of the most persecuted people on this planet are those who are members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Orta said, saying some of his clients face victimization in Mexico because of their sexual orientation or gender. gender identity.

The entry points participating in the Title 42 exemption process are located in Nogales, Arizona; the Texas towns of Brownsville, Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, Laredo and El Paso; and the California cities of Calexico and San Diego. The first appointments under the expanded process are scheduled to take place on January 18. DHS officials said they would make extra days available each morning.

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