US expands slots for asylum application at land crossings as demand outstrips supply

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) — U.S. authorities on Thursday expanded the time slots for seeking asylum at land crossings with Mexico via a mobile app for the second time in less than a month, seeking to dispel doubts about the fact that it is not a viable option.

There are now 1,250 rendezvous at eight land crossing points, down from 1,000 previously and 740 in early May.

The increase “reflects our commitment to continue expanding legal options for migrants,” said Blas Nuñez-Neto, Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary for border and immigration policy. “We will continue to increase border appointments as our operations allow in terms of capacity.”

Nuñez-Neto called CBP One a “safe and orderly option” during a visit to Harlingen, Texas. He announced the expansion a week after Texas filed a lawsuit to end what the state government considers an illegal method of boosting immigration.

Demand has far exceeded supply since the start of January 12, prompting many to consider crossing the border illegally or giving up. Enrique Lucero, director of migrant affairs for the city of Tijuana, said the latest increase would have little impact given the number of expectations.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s still very low and not enough for pent-up demand.”

After pandemic-related asylum restrictions ended on May 11, the Biden administration continued its carrot-and-stick approach to the border, introducing a blanket ban on asylum for people crossing other countries, such as Mexico, and illegally enter the United States. .

US authorities are trying to funnel people into “legal avenues” like CBP One and parole for up to 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive by plane.

CBP One is for people of all nationalities applying in central, northern and northern Mexico and entering by land.

Thursday’s expansion was met with cautious optimism and slight indifference among some of the 150 people, mostly families with young children, camping on a sidewalk at a border crossing where Tijuana leads to San Diego, hoping that the US authorities will admit them without CBP One. appointment.

They said it appeared authorities were allowing around one family every few hours, enough to create a growing bottleneck over the past week as word spread that it was an alternative.

Carlos Vasquez, 25, reached southern Mexico from Honduras in January with his pregnant wife and their 4-year-old daughter and began trying the app daily once he was in central Mexico. He grew frustrated and on Monday began sleeping at the border camp, hoping that US officials would take pity on his family.

Vasquez said the increase to 1,250 a day was good news but not enough for a major impact.

“We are many and there are few chosen ones,” he said.

Sergio Hernandez, 35, scored a date on May 24 after more than five months of daily effort. Appointments are scheduled up to two weeks in advance.

Hernandez, a Guatemalan who is considering seeking asylum while living with a childhood friend in Kansas City, Missouri, said he received countless “system error” messages before confirming a slot. Once, she was given a date on her phone screen, but the email confirmation never arrived.

“They keep improving it bit by bit,” he said.

Hernandez, who was traveling alone, said perceptions persist that large families are at a disadvantage, which US officials deny.

Beatriz Melchor, 47, said she would wait to see if the latest increase had any impact. She tried the app for about six weeks with her husband and son and said the changes announced in early May had produced no noticeable benefit.

The changes included giving higher priority to asylum seekers who tried the app the longest and scheduling appointments throughout the day instead of all at once, which has created mad rushes.

“We have over a month to try and there are people here nine days, four days, and they get their appointments,” she said.

Melchor said returning to his hometown in the Mexican state of Guerrero was not an option. The criminals blocked the exits and entrances and she had to escape. If the mobile app doesn’t work, she’s willing to wait, though she said Tijuana isn’t safe.

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Spagat reported from Tijuana, Mexico.

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