Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

Migrants Struggle to Get Appointments on Border Patrol App

Among the tools the Biden administration is using to alleviate crowding at the U.S.-Mexico border is a new mobile app that migrants must use before entering the United States to secure an appointment with the Border Patrol to submit an asylum application.

But migrants have faced difficulties securing appointments through the app, called CBP One, launched earlier this year. The agency has tried in recent days to make improvements, including increasing the number of appointments available through the app to around 1,000 a day from about 740.

By late Thursday, more than 62,000 people had applied for the first 1,000 appointments available for May 24. So far, 800 of those have confirmed the appointment, with the largest number of migrants coming from Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela.

While not appearing to be new or more pronounced, the continued struggles faced by migrants on Thursday suggested that a major part of the Biden administration’s plan for managing the border still faced challenges handling the level of demand.

On the banks of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, across from Brownsville, Texas, a group of 11 migrants from Venezuela tried to secure an appointment on Thursday as they sat outside their tents. They refreshed their phones again and again, only to get error messages in response. The system was overwhelmed with thousands of migrants trying to secure appointments and the available slots soon filled up.

“We can’t enter, we don’t understand the new system,” complained Wendy Perez Peña, 31, who left Venezuela in March to escape poverty.

Jeison Rodriguez Jesus Salas, 27, shook his head in frustration.

“They haven’t updated it well, they should have updated it better,” he said.

Out of the group of 11, not one had been able to secure an appointment on Thursday.

Elsewhere along the border, under a burning sun in Reynosa, Mexico, across from McAllen, Texas, Osiris Yamilet Ochoa, 20, had been trying repeatedly to secure an appointment through the app.

On Thursday afternoon, she opened it once again and it read, “Wait for an appointment,” in Spanish.

“Everybody is trying to cross to the United States, but we have heard that if you cross before your appointment date, it may be considered illegal crossing and it may hurt our case,” Ms. Ochoa said as she took a break from selling gum in the streets to buy baby milk for her 8-month daughter, Milagros. “I don’t want to risk it. We have been here for three months. We can wait a few more days.”

The Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, denied that there were any widespread technical glitches with the C.B.P. One app. “We are utilizing it very effectively,” he said on Thursday. The problem, he said, was a lack of staff resources to schedule as many interviews as needed.

Shelter operators in Mexico agreed, saying that the challenges faced by migrants, while dispiriting to those experiencing them, did not appear new.

“There is no difference,” José Luis Elías Rodríguez, the director of Casa de Migrante San Juan Diego y San Francisco de Asís, a shelter in Matamoros. “Some people made an appointment,” he said. “It is the same as the past, the platform is saturated,” he said — there were simply not enough appointments.

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