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Border Crossings Plummet: US Pins Hopes for Order on Mobile App

by Joshua Brown
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TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — In the last few months, lots of people from different countries have gathered along the US-Mexico border. These people don’t really talk about a special rule during the pandemic called “Title 42.”

The U.S. government has built an app to help a thousand people every day get appointments so they can travel across the border into America and ask for asylum. Sadly, there is way too much demand to fill all of those slots, so many people have been really frustrated trying to use this app. This system was created by the Biden administration as a way of making it easier for people who follow their rules to come in, but punishing people who don’t do things the right way.

Teresa Muñoz, 48 years old, had to flee her home in Mexico because a gang killed her husband and hurt her. She is trying for a full month now to get permission to enter the US through an app called CBPOne with her two children and grandson who’s 2 years old.

The U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Friday and Saturday, the Border Patrol made 6,300 and 4,200 arrests respectively. This number is much lower than the 10,000+ arrests seen in just three days last week before new policies to make getting asylum more difficult took effect.

Mayorkas said on Sunday that although it’s still early, they have been planning the transition for a long time and executing those plans. They will continue to do so in the coming days.

Though the number of arrests have reduced in recent days, border police predict that it will rise again to 12,000-14,000 a day. People they cannot tell how many people will attempt to cross the border. Recently, there was an unexpected group of 18,000 mostly Haitian migrants found in Del Rio, Texas – so they can’t be sure of what the future holds.

Last week, more than 27,000 people tried to come over the U.S. border. If they don’t leave without being told to appear in court, this number could reach 45,000 by May.

The government wants to let go of some migrants without forcing them to appear in court. It takes authorities between 90 minutes and two hours just to process one adult for court hearings, which the Border Patrol thinks is taking up too much time and space. Instead, they have been releasing people with instructions since 2021 – all they need to do is report back within 60 days- this only takes 20 minutes!

The Justice Department said they might not be able to take everyone in if they can’t release people quickly, which would be bad. President Joe Biden, who was at home this weekend, said the number of people at the border is going down but we still need Congress’ help with funding and laws.

The government is trying to make it difficult for people to enter the country illegally by offering 30,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela each month an opportunity to come into the country legally. People who want to take advantage of this offer need to apply online with a person who agrees to pay for their trip and they must arrive by plane.

This weekend, a huge group of people from Colombia (mostly) were gathered near the town of Jacumba in California. It was really hot and they had been sleeping in tents by San Diego for several days. The Border Patrol gave them a few cookies and water though some of the people crossed into America illegally after trying to use an app but it didn’t work or because other people told them that applying legally was very hard.

Ana Cuna, who is 27 years old, said that she and other people from Colombia were each charged $1,300 for help getting over the border near Tijuana. Ana said she was able to step on U.S. soil before the deadline for Title 42 ran out on Thursday. However, Border Patrol officers gave her a wristband with a number on it and two days later, still nobody had helped her with the process.

The government recently denied more than 2.8 million asylum requests because of a law to stop the spread of COVID-19. This law has now ended, but there’s another policy that says that people who travel to the U.S. from Mexico (and other places) will be denied asylum – with very few exceptions.

Cuna, the leader of the group of Colombian women and families, said that they wanted to travel to various places in America following all the laws. Some of these cities included Chicago, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Spartanburg in South Carolina.

In 2021, a lot of people were released from prisons without having to go to court. They were just told to come back in 60 days and report to an immigration office. This caused a big problem though. There was so much work piling up at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices that they wouldn’t be able to see everyone until 2033!

In March, a Judge from Pensacola, Florida told the government to stop a particular practice but then the administration re-started it last week because they said it was an emergency. The state of Florida wasn’t happy about it and the Judge told them not to do it for two weeks and there is going to be a hearing this Friday.

Since the launch of CBPOne in January, asylum-seekers have faced a lot of problems like error messages and difficulty taking pictures. Every day, they have to hurry up and use their phones until all the slots are filled within minutes.

Muñoz wanted to cross the mountains east of San Diego but realized it was too expensive. She remembers going on a tough 1-week hike through the Arizona desert awhile back. Later, she made money by having two jobs at a grocery store close to Los Angeles and used that money to return to Mexico with her children.

Just last week, the authorities made a change to an app they manage. The number of available spots was increased to 1,000 – that’s way more than the 740 before! Also, they decided to prioritize those who have waited the longest and instead of opening all slots at once, they released them slowly throughout the day. Ms. Muñoz isn’t too sure if these changes are enough yet.

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