Saturday, March 25, 2023

The system for applying for asylum in the US has quickly become saturated

TIJUANA, Mexico ( Associated Press) – Hours before dawn, migrants at one of Mexico’s largest shelters wake up and go online, hoping to secure an appointment to try to apply for asylum in the United States. let’s hope The daily ritual resembles a race for tickets to a major concert when online sales begin, with about 100 people twiddling their thumbs at their phone screens.

New appointments are available every day at 6 a.m., but migrants are hampered by error messages from the US government’s CBPOne mobile app, which has been overloaded since the Biden administration launched it on January 12.

Many cannot login. Others may enter their information and select a date, only to have the screen freeze on final confirmation. Some get a message that they must be near a crossing with the United States, even though they are already in Mexico’s largest border city.

At the Embajadores de Jesus shelter in Tijuana, only two of more than 1,000 migrants received appointments in the first two weeks, says director Gustavo Banda.

“We’ll keep trying, but for us, it’s a failure,” says Arlin Rodriguez of Honduras, before dawn on Sunday after another failed attempt for himself, his wife and their two children. “There is no hope”.

Mexican Mareni Montiel was happy after selecting a date and time for her two children, but then she didn’t receive a confirmation code. “From there, it goes back to zero,” says Montiel, 32, who has waited four months at the shelter, where rooster crows fill the crisp morning air at the end of a dirt road.

CBPOne came to replace an opaque patchwork of exemptions to a public health order known as Title 42, under which the US government has denied migrants rights to seek asylum since March 2020. or change in policy, unless they are attempting to enter the United States illegally.

If the app is successful, asylum seekers could use CBPOne — even if Title 42 is lifted — as a safe and orderly alternative to illegal entry, which hit the highest number recorded in the United States in December. level reached. It could also discourage large stops on the Mexican side of the border, where migrants cling to unrealistic hopes.

But there have been several complaints:

– Applications are only available in English and Spanish, languages ​​that many expatriates do not speak. Guerline Joseph, executive director of the nonprofit Haitian Bridge Alliance, says officials “failed to take into account the most basic fact: Haiti’s national language is Haitian Creole.” US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says it plans to release a Creole version in February. It has not announced other languages.

– Some expats, especially those with darker skin, say the app rejects required photos, blocks or slows down apps. CBP acknowledges that it is aware of some technical issues, particularly when new appointments become available, but these can also be caused by users’ phones. It states that a live photo is required for every login as a security measure.

The problem has hit Haitians the most, says Felicia Rangel-Samponaro, director of The Sidewalk School, an organization that helps immigrants in Reynosa and Matamoros, on the other side of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Rangel-Samponaro says that at first, about 80% of the migrants admitted to take refuge in the area were Haitian. On Friday, he counted 10 black people out of 270 who had been admitted to Matamoros.

“We brought in construction lights to illuminate their faces,” he says. “But those pictures couldn’t move past the photo processing part…they couldn’t move past the photo processing part.”

— The requirement, enforced by migrants in northern and central Mexico, doesn’t always work. CBP says the app will not function properly if the location feature is turned off. It also tries to determine whether signals are bouncing off cell towers in the United States.

But not only does the app fail to recognize that some people are on the border, applicants from outside the region have been able to circumvent the location requirement by using virtual private networks. The agency said it found a fix for it and updated the system.

— Some advocates are frustrated that there is no explicit special consideration for LGBTQ applicants. Migrants are asked whether they have a physical or mental illness, disability, pregnancy, are homeless, at risk of harm, or are under 21 or over 70 years of age.

Still, LGBTQ immigrants are not ineligible. At Casa de Luz, a Tijuana shelter for about 50 LGBTQ immigrants, four quickly found appointments. A transgender woman from El Salvador said she didn’t check any boxes when asked about specific vulnerabilities.

The United States began detaining asylum seekers under President Donald Trump on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19, although Title 42 is not uniformly enforced and many are considered sensitive.

From President Joe Biden’s first year in office until last week, CBP organized waivers through advocates, churches, lawyers and migrant shelters, without publicly identifying them or saying how many slots were available. The system gave rise to allegations of favoritism and corruption. In December, CBP severed ties with a group that billed Russian immigrants.

For CBPOne to work, enough people need to make appointments to discourage illegal border crossings, says Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney and former adviser to Democrat Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader.

“If these appointments start to drag on for two, three or four months, it’s going to be very difficult to keep going,” he says. “If people don’t get it, they won’t use the program.”

CBP, which schedules appointments up to two weeks in advance, declined to say how many people turn up. However, Enrique Lucero, director of immigration affairs for the city of Tijuana, said US officials accept 200 a day at San Diego, the largest border crossing. This is almost identical to the old system, but far fewer than the number of Ukrainians prosecuted after the Russian invasion last year.

Jose Miranda, 30, has been at the Embajadores de Jesus for five months and prefers the previous system of working through advocacy groups. The shelter compiled an internal waiting list that moved slowly but let him know where he stood. Banda, the director of the shelter home, says that 100 were selected every week. Miranda packed his bags for himself, his wife and their three children, believing that their turn was imminent until the new online portal was launched. Now, the Salvadoran migrant has no idea when his opportunity will come, if it ever does. Still, he plans to keep trying through CBPOne.

“The problem is the system: it’s saturated and it’s anarchy,” he explains after another morning of failed attempts.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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