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To grant asylum, the US app works like ‘bingo’ for immigrants in the US

To grant asylum, the US app works like ‘bingo’ for immigrants in the US

Venezuelan immigrants use the CBP One app at the border | Photo: HERIKA MARTINEZ / AFP

A large portion of asylum claims in the US will depend on the mobile application starting this Friday (11). Alternative technology seems disconnected from the dramatic reality of its luxuriant frontier of cell phones, Wi-Fi, and electricity.

CBP One, a part of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is designed to send asylum claims to the United States.

The failure of the device, which has a 2.5-star Apple Store rating, has frustrated migrants gathered in Mexico. “It’s extraordinary that an application practically determines our lives and our future,” 21-year-old Venezuelan Jeremy de Pablos, who has been camping in Ciudad Juarez for weeks, told AFP.

The most difficult thing was facial recognition, the young man said: “It’s a bingo, recognize who you like”.

“The application is the wall, it’s not one,” de Pablos added, pointing to the imposing wall around the U.S.-Mexico border.

Joe Biden’s administration introduced CBP One in January in the face of the imminent end of Title 42 — a health rule implemented by former President Donald Trump’s administration to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

Title 42, which expires at midnight Thursday, authorizes the deportation of people who cross the border without visas or the necessary documents, but with exceptions.

Since its implementation in 2020, nearly three million asylum seekers have been evacuated – mostly to Mexico, where temporary camps have been set up.

The current US administration will implement new asylum rules this Friday as the first step in implementing new asylum rules under penalty of deportation for those who enter the US without planning to apply.

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As well as the time to register for CBP One, the authorities have extended the daily quota provided. However, it is still a control tool.

Many immigrants make arduous journeys to reach the US border, and getting there is a feat. Their phones are stolen or vandalized while crossing the river. Some people keep their cell phones, but they are obsolete or discontinued devices.

Migrants waiting in Ciudad Juárez live in tents without electricity. They carry their phones on poles tied with cables.

They prioritize every coin to buy phone balance and get internet. It is at this point that the second part of the challenge begins: “Look, it’s stuck,” says Ronald Huerta from Venezuela, who could not get past the language settings of the app this Wednesday.

A few meters away, 14-year-old Ana Pavla was crying as the app updated, wiping out all information about her and her family.

“I’m tired! I can’t take it anymore!” complained the teenager, repeatedly clicking “Submit” to recreate the family profiles, but getting an “Error 500” message instead.

“It’s a big nightmare, it’s agony. This use has caused us emotional and psychological damage,” said her father, Juan Pavon, a businessman who came with his family from Venezuela.

They only had an old iPhone, and his wife spent weeks trying to book a family meeting at CBP One. When she confirmed a time she was only told it was hers.

The family is now split on both sides of the border. As Title 42 expires, anxiety rises and many people lose their temper and enter the United States illegally.

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“It’s disappointing that such a critical part of the process is left at the mercy of technology, which is often failing and not accessible to everyone,” said Raul Pinto, senior counsel for the US Immigration Service.

Washington announced this week that the utility will evolve into a high-capacity virtual system.

“We hope they will solve some of the problems, but we are very disappointed that there is no alternative way for people to access something as important and life-saving as the asylum application process,” continues Pinto.


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