Border officials allow asylum seekers to apply for entry into the US via a mobile app

Border officials allow asylum seekers to apply for entry into the US via a mobile app

WASHINGTON — U.S. border officials on Thursday began allowing some asylum-seekers to use a free mobile application to request a chance to be processed at an official port of entry. It’s part of a strategy the Biden administration hopes will discourage migrants from entering the United States illegally.

Eligible migrants in Mexico using the app will be given an appointment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at a port of entry, where officials will decide whether they can enter the country under humanitarian exceptions to a pandemic-era rule known as Title 42, which is limited has asylum applications.

The mobile app expansion, dubbed CBP One, was first unveiled by President Biden last week when he unveiled a new border strategy that would include increased evictions for those crossing the southern border illegally, with expanded opportunities for migrants with US-based sponsors union legally enter the country.

Migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border

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

The port of entry designation process is separate from another Biden administration program, which will allow up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to fly to the United States each month if American citizens or others in the United States with legal status have one guarantee you agree.

Migrants in central or northern Mexico hoping to be processed at a port of entry must show they have a government-identified vulnerability to receive a Title 42 waiver, which allows U.S. border officials to detain migrants on grounds of health to public health quickly. without allowing them to apply for asylum.

Vulnerabilities that DHS will consider include a physical or mental illness, disability, pregnancy, and lack of secure housing or shelter in Mexico, per the guidelines in the app. Migrants under the age of 21 or over the age of 70 and those who have been victims in Mexico are also considered for the procedure.

In a statement Thursday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas called the Port of Entry program “an innovative solution.”

“When Title 42 is eventually lifted, this new capability will be one of the many tools and processes this government is providing for individuals to take shelter and strengthen the security of our borders in a safe, orderly and humane manner,” Mayorkas said .

In addition to confirming their vulnerability, the CBP One app requires migrants to submit biographical information about themselves and their families, as well as a photo of their face. You will then be given an appointment up to 14 days in advance to show up at one of the eight ports of entry in Arizona, California or Texas.

Those selected for an appointment are not guaranteed entry into the United States, DHS officials said, noting that CBP officials have wide discretion in granting migrants permission to enter the country during inspections at a port of entry or to refuse.

The application process is free and questions about the CBP One app are available in English and Spanish. The process will also mean that migrants seeking a humanitarian exemption from Title 42 will no longer need a referral from NGOs, which have been sending lists of vulnerable migrants to the US government in recent months.

Under this program, the Biden administration had processed thousands of asylum seekers at the port of entry each month. In November, the most recent month with available data, officials at ports of entry processed 20,696 migrants under Title 42 humanitarian exemptions, government statistics filed with a federal court show.

Ukrainians and Russians on the US-Mexico border are putting pressure on Biden's immigration restrictions

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials check the passports of Ukrainian refugees wishing to enter the U.S. at the San Ysidro Port of Entry crossing bridge in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, March 20, 2022. Bloomberg

While entering the US between ports of entry is illegal, US asylum law allows migrants on American soil to seek asylum regardless of how they entered the country. But the government has used Title 42 to partially suspend the asylum law, expelling hundreds of thousands of migrants without a trial or interview. Migrants were also generally prevented from seeking asylum at Title 42 ports of entry.

After defending it as an important public health measure for over a year, the Biden administration attempted to end Title 42 in the spring of 2022, but Republican-run states convinced a judge to block the termination.

Then, in November, another federal judge declared Title 42 illegal. However, his injunction was stayed by the Supreme Court, which retained Title 42 at the request of the group of Republican-controlled states, which have argued the end of the policy will result in an even greater surge in border arrivals.

While the recently announced strategy of the Biden administration includes an extension of Title 42 to expel migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti who were previously not covered by the directive, the expansion of the CBP One app could change the US asylum system for a significant number of stranded migrants open 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 entry procedure “long overdue” and said it “accompanies 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 management is the future of orderly migration on the southern border.”

Still, some asylum-seeker advocates have expressed concern about the new procedure, saying it will exclude destitute migrants who don’t have access to WiFi or phones, as well as those who don’t speak English or Spanish, or who face imminent danger in Mexico and can Can’t wait for an appointment.

“This will exclude the most vulnerable migrants,” said Erika Pinheiro, the executive director of Al Otro Lado, a California group that provides legal aid to asylum seekers in Mexico.

Priscilla Orta, a South Texas-based attorney who represents migrants for the group Project Corazon, criticized the vulnerability policies in the CBP One app, saying she doesn’t specifically consider LGBTQ migrants to be vulnerable.

“The world knows that some of the most persecuted people on this planet are members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Orta said, saying some of her clients in Mexico are victims of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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

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