Migrants struggle to use the CBP One app

Migrants struggle to use the CBP One app

In early January, Miguel, a migrant from the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, struggled for more than a month to get an app working. He took it on because it was what he and his family — and many like them — needed to enter the United States, Miguel said. The rest of the world. That core application was CBP One, developed by the US Customs and Border Patrol. This is the platform through which migrants and asylum seekers seeking humanitarian relief must request an appointment from border guards before entering the country.

Miguel, who is identified by a pseudonym for his and his family’s safety The rest of the world started using the app as a digital novice, but quickly became an expert at hard resets, cellular connectivity options and other tricks — all to snag one of the scarce slots on CBP One each day. But no matter what he did, he always got the same result: errors, errors, and a screen that showed no more free space.

Previously, asylum seekers and migrants seeking a humanitarian exception had only to go to one of the official ports of entry and surrender to Border Patrol agents. Since early January, in an effort to stem the growing number of asylum seekers, the CBP One application has been made a new requirement for thousands of migrants seeking to enter the United States legally.

According to US authorities, CBP One is designed to speed up the process of obtaining permission to enter the country.

The rest of the world spoke to migrants, shelter managers, immigration attorneys and Mexican government officials, and found that the app added more ordeal to an already grueling journey. Migrants are spending their scarce time and money optimizing their phones, changing their usual migration routes and avoiding new forms of digital extortion that have emerged from criminals exploiting CBP One’s flaws — all to meet a requirement they didn’t have to worry about before.

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Meeting times for border officials, who can allow or deny migrants entry to the United States, are limited: Fewer than 1,000 appointments are open each day at 6 a.m. Pacific time. They usually go away within minutes. This is according to the five migrants he interviewed The rest of the world, meant sleepless nights or very early mornings for those waiting to log in and race to input the necessary information, photos and other documents. If the app crashes or they’re too slow, they can’t provide space and have to wait another day. The app currently has 2.5 stars on the Google Play Store.

For CBP One to work, migrants must be in both central and northern Mexico. The application verifies the user’s location and blocks the booking of meetings outside the authorized regions. This meant that Miguel, a migrant from Guerrero, was forced to travel some 2,000 kilometers from his home in southern Mexico to Tijuana on the US border, at great personal cost. He had to pay for travel and accommodation for himself and four family members The rest of the world“because the app forces you to be near the border or in Mexico City.”

“When they fix one mistake, they seem to create another.”

Once in a cleared area, migrants still have to deal with CBP One’s ongoing failures, some said The rest of the world the app frequently crashes, fails to upload documents, and seems to require constant updates. “When they fix one bug, they seem to create another,” one member of a WhatsApp group of more than 300 migrants posted after the latest version of the app was announced on March 6. Starting March 8, CBP One will issue new dailies. appointments at a later time – 11am – and 13 days before they list available appointments.

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One particularly troubling error, according to a discussion within the WhatsApp group, is the separation of extended families, as it is harder to find a place that is accessible to everyone. Andrew Bahena, international programs coordinator for the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), confirmed that The rest of the world that he had “heard many horrifying reports of families being separated because CBP refused to accept entire families if they were not registered on the app.”


Migrants have found that the better the phone and the stronger the signal, the better their chances of navigating CBP One’s errors. “It’s a question of inequality because not all migrants have a phone or the resources to access it or upgrade the one they have,” said Miriam Quiñonez, a migration lawyer and consultant. The rest of the world. “All applicants must be supported so that they all have a chance to be successful with CBP One.”

But a better phone doesn’t guarantee a smooth ride through CBP One’s many problems. Rogelio, a Haitian migrant who asked to speak under a pseudonym because he feared it would affect his immigration process. The rest of the world he woke up at 3 a.m. to try to get the app’s identity scanner to work. “I spent up to an hour scanning my face,” she said. According to migrants in the 300-member WhatsApp group, recent versions of the app have replaced the scanner with the selfie, but uploading the image remains a problem.

The methods used by migrants to circumvent obstacles range from simple fixes to highly technical and often expensive feats. Rogelio realized that with so many applicants connecting to the public Wi-Fi network at the same time trying to secure an appointment, he could spend extra money on data more quickly. With a faster internet connection, he was able to book an appointment in a few weeks.

There are also indications that some migrants are using VPNs – virtual private networks that allow users to disguise their location on the internet – to secure meetings. “The cases have not been independently confirmed, but we assume that they are either due to a fault in the geofencing technology or perhaps due to the use of VPNs,” Bahena said. Members of the WhatsApp group cited downloading and successfully using a “fake GPS app” to book appointments from Chiapas and Michoacán, both Mexican states, outside of CBP One’s mandated locations.

Migrants also claim that criminals are exploiting flaws in the app to scam desperate users. A Honduran family of 10 told a local reporter that a lawyer in Piedras Negras, a border town in northeastern Mexico, charged $500 each and promised to get them all a meeting. They never heard from him after they paid him. At least 10 other people claimed to have had similar experiences.

“Some people don’t have digital skills, and criminal characters are quick to hijack the process,” Bahena said.

Users’ frustration at not being able to navigate the app can turn into more desperate measures. Despite moving to Tijuana and trying every trick he learned along the way—switching phones, using different data plans, resetting phones—to no avail, Miguel and his family gave up on CBP One and ended up crossing the border without the necessary documents. .

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