The CBP One App Has Inadvertently Facilitated Family Separations

  • On Friday, restrictive immigration policy Title 42 expired after being imposed in March 2020.
  • Asylum seekers have been asked to make appointments to apply for asylum through a new app.
  • But the slots are limited, the app is glitchy, and it is causing family separations, advocates say.

The separation of migrant families seeking asylum at the US border is still happening under the Biden administration, it’s just taking a more quiet, digitized form, advocates told Insider.

Friday marked the official end of Title 42, a public health measure imposed by the Trump administration in March 2020. The measure, criticized for years as inhumane by immigration advocates, gave the US government the ability to close ports of entry to asylum seekers and rapidly deport migrants — effectively pausing the processing of asylum claims for years and stripping thousands of their international right to seek asylum.

At the core of the Biden administration’s new approach is an electronic asylum processing system that migrants and immigration advocates say is unreliable, glitchy, and a complete headache to use: the CBP One app. 

The app, which launched in January, requires asylum seekers to upload a photo and their personal information to the platform, with a lottery for appointments opening up every day at 10 a.m. until the slots are filled.

So far, at least 62,000 people have applied for appointments, and only 800 people have been scheduled for the first appointments to apply for asylum on May 24, according to The New York Times.

Kassandra Gonzalez, Staff Attorney for the Beyond Borders Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project, whose work has involved reuniting migrant children separated from their families under the Biden administration, told Insider that the app itself has facilitated family separations — something the Biden administration said would never happen again, according to CNN.

Gonzalez specified that the structure of the app — asking families to sign up for individual appointments at 10 a.m. that fill up instantaneously — has in some ways echoed past “zero tolerance” policies.

“It has forced families to make really hard choices when the whole group can’t get the appointment together,” Gonzalez told Insider. She added that she has overseen intakes where children or parents split up because of the scarcity of appointments.

The White House did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Venezuelan migrant Jennifer Santiago told Reuters in February, more than a month after the app’s launch, that she ended up in that tragic situation. Santiago, who was pregnant at the time, was only able to secure an appointment for herself. So her 15-year-old son turned himself in to US custody at the border.

“It’s horrible,” Santiago, who made it to Brownsville, Texas, told Reuters. “I wouldn’t wish this on any mother.”

Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in an interview with MSNBC on Friday acknowledged that the immediate aftermath of Title 42’s expulsion would be “a tough transition,” but emphasized the administration’s plan.

“There’s a right way to seek relief in the United States and a wrong way,” he said. “If individuals do not use those lawful pathways, then they will face tougher consequences at the border.”

“They will be removed if they do not qualify for relief, and they will face, after removal, at least a five-year bar from entry into the United States. And if they try again, they could face criminal prosecution,” he added.

Among the other policies in place to prepare for an expected increase in asylum claims following the end of Title 42 are more regional processing centers; increased powers to asylum officers; and a humanitarian parole pathway for migrants from Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti with financial sponsors.

A spokesperson for DHS did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

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