Standing in a common area of the Casa del Migrante shelter in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, Maria taps her phone screen but can’t get the app she is using to work.

Maria and her family fled their native Haiti to Venezuela years ago. But recent Venezuelan economic and political instability forced them to leave that country, too, and she said they are now hoping to apply for asylum in the United States.

But she and her husband and daughter have tried every day for the last month to get a US immigration appointment through the country’s new CBP One app — to no avail.

And without a CBP One appointment, the family faces steep consequences should they try to cross the border irregularly, including being deported back to Haiti and barred from entering the US for up to five years.

Maria, who did not want her last name published because she feared it would affect her immigration case, says she doesn’t want to risk it. She is willing to wait in Mexico for as long as it takes.

“Cross the border illegally? No,” she tells Al Jazeera in Spanish. “If we enter the US illegally, we will be deported.”

US policies

The CBP One app was launched in October 2020. Earlier this year, the administration of US President Joe Biden announced it would transition the process of scheduling immigration appointments to the platform, in order to create a “safe, orderly and humane border processing” system amid an influx of arrivals.

The application’s use has become more important as a pandemic-era US policy known as Title 42 ended just before midnight on May 11, ushering in new rules that the administration says aim to encourage people to take “legal pathways” to immigration while punishing those who do not.


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