US launches online system to seek asylum on Mexican border

Jan 12, 2023, 1:11 AM | Updated: 7:26 pm
Migrants wait to be processed after crossing the border Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona. T...

Migrants wait to be processed after crossing the border Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona. The Biden administration on Thursday launched an online appointment system for migrants to be exempt from limits on seeking asylum, its latest major step in eight days to overhaul border enforcement. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

              Migrants wait to be processed after crossing the border Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona. The Biden administration on Thursday launched an online appointment system for migrants to be exempt from limits on seeking asylum, its latest major step in eight days to overhaul border enforcement. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
            
              Migrants show their documents to a Border Patrol officer as they are processed after crossing the border Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona. The Biden administration on Thursday launched an online appointment system for migrants to be exempt from limits on seeking asylum, its latest major step in eight days to overhaul border enforcement. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
            
              Migrants wait to be processed after crossing the border Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona. The Biden administration on Thursday launched an online appointment system for migrants to be exempt from limits on seeking asylum, its latest major step in eight days to overhaul border enforcement. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
            
              Migrants wait to be processed after crossing the border Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Arizona. The Biden administration on Thursday launched an online appointment system for migrants to be exempt from limits on seeking asylum, its latest major step in eight days to overhaul border enforcement. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration on Thursday launched an online appointment system as the only way for migrants to get exceptions from pandemic-era limits on asylum — the U.S. government’s latest major step in eight days to overhaul border enforcement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection began allowing migrants to make appointments up to two weeks out using its website and through CBPOne, a mobile app that the agency has used in limited ways since 2020. CBPOne is replacing an opaque, bewildering patchwork of exemptions to a public health order known as Title 42 under which the government has denied migrants’ U.S. and international rights to claim asylum since March 2020.

Until now, CBP has arranged exemptions through advocates, churches, attorneys and migrant shelters, without publicly identifying them or saying how many slots were available. The advocates have chosen who gets in, with CBP having final say.

Under the new system, migrants apply directly to the agency and a government official will determine who gets in. Their appointments will be at one of eight crossings — at Brownsville, El Paso, Hidalgo and Laredo in Texas; Nogales, Arizona; and Calexico and San Diego in California.

Exemptions for Title 42 are meant to go to the most vulnerable migrants.

Thursday’s rollout is separate from measures announced last week to expel migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to Mexico under Title 42 and — at the same time — allow up to 30,000 migrants from those four countries to be admitted to the United States every month under humanitarian parole for two years if they apply online, pay their airfare and provide a financial sponsor.

While the administration previously signaled that it would introduce CBPOne for people seeking asylum at land border crossings with Mexico, the speed of change caught advocates off-guard.

“Utter and complete confusion,” said Priscilla Orta, an attorney at Lawyers For Good Government’s Project Corazon in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

U.S. officials told advocates Friday they expected the app to be ready in a month, Orta said. Then on Monday, advocates were informed the rollout had been moved up to this week.

Under Title 42, the U.S. has expelled migrants 2.5 million times since March 2020 on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. To qualify for an exemption under CBPOne, migrants must have a physical or mental illness, disability, pregnancy, lack housing, face a threat of harm, or must be under 21 years old or over 70.

The government’s app is currently available only in English and Spanish and requires access to a smartphone, email and reliable internet.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Florida Democrat and Haitian American, expressed concern that the app wasn’t available in Haiti’s primary languages, Creole and French. Officials say a Creole version will be added soon.

The Homeland Security Department said the app will be available to migrants in central and northern Mexico. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that it allows people “to seek protection in a safe, orderly, and humane manner and to strengthen the security of our borders.”

It’s the administration’s latest attempt to address extraordinarily high numbers of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, many of whom are fleeing inequality and violence at home. U.S. authorities stopped migrants 2.38 million times in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 37% from 1.73 million times during an unusually busy 2021.

Savitri Arvey, a senior policy adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission, said she struggled to explain all the recent policy changes to migrants during a visit to Monterrey, Mexico.

“It was just impossible in (migrant) shelters,” she said Thursday. “‘There’s this option for you, Venezuelans but not for you, Central Americans,'” she said.

Some advocates welcomed the new system for seeking exemptions, saying it the old one was rife with favoritism and prone to corruption. CBP began working with advocacy groups to select people who are exempt from Title 42 during President Joe Biden’s first year in office.

Albert Rivera, director of the Agape Mision Mundial shelter in Tijuana, said he previously didn’t have the connections to help migrants get exemptions, but on Thursday a Mexican woman at his shelter was able to sign up for an online appointment.

“We feel excited,” said Rivera said. “Everything was a monopoly.”

Last month, The Associated Press reported that Calvary Church in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista was getting 40 exemptions a day and doling them out to people who paid $1,800 each or $3,500 for a married couple. Asylum is supposed to be free and intended for those most in need. About a week after the AP story ran, the church-linked group that facilitated exemptions, Most V USA, said CBP decided to stop working with it.

CBP has been giving 180 exemptions a day in San Diego, Enrique Lucero, director of migrant affairs for Tijuana, Mexico, said this week. El Paso, Texas, was said to be getting 70 exemptions a day.

___

Associated Press writer Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Zoubin Ghahramani, vice president of research at Google, speaks at the Google AI@ event on W...
Associated Press

Google has the next move as Microsoft embraces OpenAI buzz

Before the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT was unleashed into the world, the novelist Robin Sloan was testing a similar AI writing assistant built by researchers at Google.
11 hours ago
budgets...
Associated Press

Group’s lawsuit seeks to void Washington transportation law

A conservative legal advocacy organization is suing to halt the nearly $17 billion transportation funding bill passed by the Washington Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year.
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Oklahoma AG apologizes for cabinet secretary’s indictment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s new attorney general has apologized to one of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s former cabinet secretaries for his criminal indictment in 2020 by a previous attorney general, saying he believes the secretary “committed no wrongdoing.” Attorney General Gentner Drummond sent the letter Wednesday to David Ostrowe, Stitt’s former secretary of digital transformation […]
1 day ago
FILE - Arkansas Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders answers a question while taking part in a pan...
Associated Press

Arkansas Gov. Sanders to give GOP response to Biden address

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will deliver the Republican address to the nation in response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech next week as the GOP seeks to show it’s creating a new generation of leaders. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced the role […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Mexico’s president promises total withdrawal after term ends

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president is probably the most powerful political figure the country has had in decades, but he said Thursday that after his term ends in September 2024, he will totally withdraw from politics. There had been speculation that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador would remain a power behind the scenes in […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Authorities: Man shot after reporting self as trespasser

MAGNOLIA, Texas (AP) — A man who might have been experiencing a mental health crisis was shot and injured by Texas deputies on Thursday after apparently calling 911 and describing himself as a trespasser outside his home, authorities said. At 12:45 a.m. on Thursday, deputies with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office were called to a […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
US launches online system to seek asylum on Mexican border