New function in government app helps migrants asking for Title 42 exceptions

Asylum seekers have the chance to directly schedule an appointment with CBP border officers.
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 7:56 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2023 at 10:09 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a new app function that gives asylum seekers a chance to directly schedule an appointment with CBP border officers. This comes as Title 42, the pandemic-era policy still in place that has limited border crossings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, has kept tens of thousands of asylum seekers stuck at border ports in Arizona and across the rest of the country.

Before this app function, asylum seekers restricted by Title 42 often had to go through a third party to ask for a humanitarian exception. Now, that’s no longer the case. “Access to asylum has to be free of charge,” Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project Attorney Chelsea Sachau said.

When Sachau started dealing with asylum seekers using the CBP One app earlier this month, she was glad that CBP created an option that eliminated a middleman she says is often costly, dangerous, or both. “By democratizing it and putting it back in the hands of asylum seekers, that is definitely a step in the right direction,” she said.

The first appointments signing up through the CBP One app took place on January 18. Every morning at 7 a.m. MT, asylum seekers can schedule an appointment with border officers up to 14 days in advance.

Currently, eight border ports, including the Nogales port of entry, have started to use this new function. “We’ve had people sitting outside the port waiting to get in,” CBP Tucson Field Office Supervisory Program Manager Bonnie Arellano said. “If this can help to smooth that process, I think it’s a good opportunity.”

Arellano expects some struggles with this new app scheduling process. “It may not happen immediately,” she said. “There’s a lot of people trying to get appointments. It’s just going to be a matter of attempting to continue to do that until you can get your appointment.”

But Sachau says these appointments frequently fill up in as little as three minutes. She says that’s one of several ways this app function discriminates and limits opportunities for larger and poorer groups of asylum seekers. “The word that a lot of my clients use is impotencia,” Sachau said. “They feel helpless and impotent to help their children, and help themselves get access to safety. And they’re still getting denied, denied, denied.”

Sachau argues the solution to providing more opportunities for asylum seekers is simple: get rid of Title 42. “It is not only the right thing to do, it’s the lawful thing to do,” she said. “And it’s in line with most American values.”