• Press Release

CBP One Mobile Application Violates the Rights of People Seeking Asylum in the United States

May 9, 2024

CBP One – A Blessing or a Trap? report cover
(Tercer Piso)

The mandatory use of the CBP One mobile application as the sole means of seeking asylum in the United States is a clear violation of international human rights and refugee law, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

The report, USA: CBP One – A blessing or a trap?, documents the human rights concerns associated with the mobile app and sheds light on the implications of the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways Final Rule, more commonly known as the Asylum Ban, introduced by the Biden Administration on May 11, 2023. 

The Asylum Ban imposes severe restrictions on asylum seekers entering the United States from Mexico at the southern border, denying human rights and violating international law. Amnesty International considers that the Final Rule violates the right to seek asylum, as well as the principles of non-refoulement and non-penalization. Under this rule, individuals are required to use the CBP One application to schedule appointments at ports of entry in order to be considered eligible for asylum, adding layers of complexity and obstacles to an already challenging process.

“The use of the CBP One application conditions entry and access to asylum on appearing at a port of entry with a prior appointment, which is not feasible for some people,” said Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International. “While technological innovations could potentially provide for safe transit and more orderly border processes, programs like CBP One cannot condition and limit the manner to seek international protection in the United States.”

Amnesty International’s report documents the significant hurdles faced by asylum seekers in using the CBP One application, including technological barriers, language and literacy limitations, misinformation and the arbitrary nature of appointment allocation. The CBP One application, available only in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, operates on a system where daily appointments are mainly distributed at random, leading to inconsistent experiences among asylum seekers, leaving them in uncertainty and at risk.

“The CBP One application turns the legal right to asylum into a lottery system based on chance.” said Paul O’Brien, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Asylum seekers may never be provided with safety and protection in the United States simply because they may never receive an appointment.”  Moreover, the application’s mandatory use of facial recognition and GPS tracking raises serious concerns about privacy, surveillance, and potential discrimination, further complicating the asylum-seeking process. An analysis of the CBP One application by Amnesty International’s Security Lab found that device information and identifiers are sent to Google’s Firebase service, functionality that is not disclosed to users.

The report also outlines the dire situation faced by those seeking asylum waiting in Mexico for CBP One appointments. According to the findings, Mexico has become increasingly dangerous for people seeking asylum who are often extorted, kidnapped and experience discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence by both state and non-state actors.

In one testimony to Amnesty International, a Venezuelan woman seeking asylum in the United States described the harsh conditions of waiting in Mexico until her appointment:

“We were kidnapped for three days and then released. We were blindfolded and they beat us several times. We were taken off the buses several times and were forced to pay. We were sold tickets at double the price. So many things happened to us that make you want to cry. If we don’t get the appointment quickly, we’ll throw ourselves into the river.”

In another testimony to Amnesty International, a Mexican woman seeking asylum waited months for her appointment to arrive:

“I’ve been trying to get the appointment for three months. I thought that the appointments were going in order. It’s maddening. I’m distraught with the situation. Someone tried to kill me. I don’t want to leave my Mexico, but I can’t stay.”

“The situation faced by asylum seekers in Mexico is severe, with many experiencing violence and discrimination on a daily basis,” said Edith Olivares Ferreto, Executive Director of Amnesty International Mexico. “Forced to wait in limbo for undetermined amounts of time, people seeking safety are left vulnerable to further harm and violations of their rights.”

With increasing wait times and uncertainty about appointment allocation, many asylum seekers are forced to make perilous decisions to cross into the United States without appointments, putting their lives at risk and potentially being ineligible for asylum because of the Asylum Ban.

“The United States has a moral and legal obligation to protect all people who seek safety in our country,” said Amy Fischer, Director for Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International USA. “The Biden administration cannot continue down this path and must live up to our country’s promise as a welcoming nation for all.”

Amnesty International calls on the United States to immediately cease implementation of its Asylum Ban and stop the mandatory use of the CBP One application, both of which are violations of international human rights law and refugee law. The United States must ensure access to fair and individualized asylum procedures without discrimination based on migration status.

Amnesty International urges the Mexican government to protect the rights of asylum seekers in transit, including ensuring access to US ports of entry and implementing measures to address violence and discrimination against asylum seekers within its borders.

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