US asylum app strands migrants and aids organised crime, rights group says

Last Updated: June 19, 2024By

Stranded at the Border: How Government App Harms Migrants


Yo, check this out! So, there’s this government app in the US that’s supposed to handle asylum appointments at the US-Mexico border, right? But turns out, according to a fresh report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), it’s causing a whole bunch of trouble instead of helping out.

The report, based on chats with over a hundred migrants, officials, and activists, spills the tea on how this app called CBP One is messing things up big time. See, this app only dishes out 1,450 appointments a day, even though there were like 7,240 folks showing up at the border every day between May 2023 and January 2024.

So, what’s the deal? Well, peeps seeking asylum gotta either cool their heels for an appointment or fork over cash to shady human traffickers to sneak them across the border.

“The Biden squad says this app and the asylum rules will put a dent in smuggling,” the report spills. “But guess what? It’s doing the opposite. This app mess in Mexico is leaving asylum seekers open to all sorts of bad stuff like blackmail, getting snatched, and straight-up violence.”

And get this—since they got no other choice, asylum seekers are more likely to deal with smugglers, making these crime gangs even richer, says the report.

The CBP One app became a must-have for asylum seekers in May 2023, thinking there’d be a flood of peeps at the border once the US dropped this pandemic rule called Title 42. But surprise, surprise, that big wave never showed up. Yet, they kept this app game going strong.


There are some exceptions to this app drama, like if you’re in immediate danger of something terrible going down, but the report shows cases where folks facing real threats still get turned away.

Instead of waiting around in Mexico, some decide to make a run for it between the border crossings. But it’s risky business—some end up drowning in the Rio Grande, while others bite the dust in the Sonoran desert.

According to CBP stats, 895 people kicked the bucket at the border during the 2022 fiscal year. That’s a whopping 57% jump from the year before, but local crews say the real number’s probably way higher.

For those who opt to wait, they’re playing a dangerous game of hide and seek with crime groups.

“It’s like clockwork,” says Ari Sawyer from HRW. “They grab ’em, switch off their phones, snap some pics, then dig through their contacts to shake down their fam back in the US.”

One guy HRW talked to got snatched up in Durango and found himself with about 150 others in a hideout. Another dude, kidnapped in Mexicali, witnessed a couple of folks getting shot dead for putting up a fight.

Human Rights First also did some digging and found over 13,000 cases of kidnaps and violence against migrants during Biden’s time in office up to December 2022.

But here’s the kicker—sometimes Mexican officials are in cahoots with these crime crews.

Like, check this: the mayor and top cop in Matehuala got busted for being part of a kidnapping gig for migrants. And officials often shove peeps onto buses heading south—an unofficial rule that’s gotten more popular under Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s watch.

This is all part of Mexico’s gig as the border bouncer for the US, trying to keep the numbers down.

Last year, they snagged a whopping 800,000 migrants. And the first three months of 2024? Almost 400,000 already.

When they nab migrants in Mexico, who knows what happens next? But the longer they’re stuck there, the more danger they’re in.

“An app for appointments might sound all neat and tidy, but this CBP One mess is putting lives at risk and lining the pockets of bad guys,” says Sawyer. “The US and Mexico gotta step it up, no doubt.”

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