The Biden administration has announced new legal routes to the United States for some asylum seekers and is launching new features on an “app” where migrants can apply digitally.
The Department of Homeland Security’s stated goal is to reduce the number of migrants crossing the U.S. border without permission between ports of entry and to slow the surge in migration across the hemisphere. The online application is designed to encourage migrants to apply directly for legal entry into the US, which reduces the use of smugglers.
“This new process is orderly, safe, humane – and it works,” Biden said in a speech from the White House on Jan. 5 in which he announced the new border policy.
The CBP One app features for asylum seekers are expected to launch on Thursday.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is the CBP One app?
The app is a virtual US Customs and Border Protection office where individual travelers, customs brokers, truck drivers, and others can complete and submit their paperwork. It can be downloaded for free on your mobile phone through the Android or iPhone app store.
Although the app launched in 2020, CBP One received a lot of attention in early January when the Biden administration announced new legal pathways for some asylum seekers and other migrants and said they could apply through the app.
Users create a login and password and can view a variety of options, including reporting an arrival or departure, applying for an I-94 travel permit, viewing travel history, or accessing a new feature called “submit advance information.” After opening this tab, asylum seekers intending to report to the southwest port of entry can provide advance information and request travel documents and make an appointment.
How can asylum seekers use CBP One and who is eligible?
Asylum seekers located in central or northern Mexico can use the app to obtain an exemption from a Section 42 removal order. Similarly, Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans can use the app to apply for one of the 30,000 visas given to them every month.
The CBP allows some particularly vulnerable migrants to request an exemption to protect themselves from rapid removal to Mexico or their home countries. Previously, only advocacy and legal aid organizations could apply for exemptions on behalf of migrants; Migrants can now apply directly through the app.
The Paso del Norte Bridge in El Paso is one of the places where tax-exempt migrants can attend after making an appointment. Other ports in Texas include Brownsville, Eagle Pass, Hidalgo, and Laredo; Nogales in Arizona; and Calexico West and the San Ysidro Crossing in California.
Dig deeper:What is Section 42, when does it end, how does it affect the US-Mexico border? Here’s what to know
For the new visas, people from the four relevant countries can apply for travel documents through the app. They must have a valid passport and proof of sponsorship in the United States, pass a background check, and meet other eligibility criteria.
The app is currently available in English and Spanish, but the administration has said additional languages will be added, including Haitian Creole.
What is the controversy around CBP One?
The Biden administration says its new policy and app will increase access to legal routes in the U.S. for many people who previously had few legal options and may protect them from unscrupulous smugglers and dissuade them from the dangerous journey north.
In a tweet, Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said: “The enhanced access to the CBP One app in Central Mexico is designed to stop non-citizens from congregating near the border in unsafe conditions.”
Immigrant advocates say they are concerned that the process, which requires access to a mobile phone and a stable internet connection, combined with other eligibility criteria, including U.S. financial sponsorship, may prove difficult or impossible for some migrants. They also say that forcing migrants to wait in their countries or in Mexico for travel documents or an appointment could put them in danger.
“The people we’re talking about were running for their lives, only to hear the president heartlessly say, ‘They should say where they are,'” said Mary Miller Flowers, senior policy analyst at the Youth Center for Children’s Rights. -immigrants. “According to the laws and treaty obligations of the United States, people have the right to come to the border and apply for asylum, regardless of which country they come from and what documents they have.”
This story will be updated.