• Press Release

Mandatory Use of CBP One Mobile Application Violates Right to Seek Asylum

May 9, 2023

The mandatory use of the CBP One mobile application as the sole means of entering the United States to seek international protection is a clear violation of international human rights law, Amnesty International said today.

In a new policy briefing, Amnesty International has raised serious human rights concerns regarding the mandatory use of CBP One. Following the scheduled termination of Title 42 on 11 May, asylum-seekers will be required to use the application to schedule appointments at ports of entry along the United States’ southern border to present their asylum claims. This approach severely limits asylum seekers’ ability to seek international protection by creating significant barriers for individuals who do not have access to mobile devices or internet, or are unable to access or use the application due to other circumstances.   

“The mandatory use of CBP One conditions entry and access to asylum on appearing at a port of entry with a prior appointment, which is only feasible for some people,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International. “While technological innovations could potentially provide for safe transit and more orderly border processes, programs like CBP One cannot be used as the exclusive manner of entry into the United States to seek international protection”.

Despite the fact that the use of CBP One was initially not mandatory, in practice it has become the only means for asylum seekers from certain countries to seek asylum. There have been numerous reports of people waiting for long periods of time for CBP One appointments. This situation is only expected to worsen once Title 42 is terminated and the use of CBP One becomes mandatory for all asylum seekers.

The policy briefing examines how the mandatory use of CBP One violates the international human rights obligations of the United States towards asylum seekers. Under both domestic and international law, individuals have the right to seek protection from persecution, and the United States must ensure that they are able to access its territory and receive individualized and fair assessments of all asylum requests without discrimination.

“The way in which the CBP One application works is deeply problematic. Asylum-seekers are forced to install the application on their mobile devices, which enables US Customs and Border Protection to collect data about their location by ‘pinging’ their phones. The US must ensure that asylum seekers have due process rights regarding refugee status determination procedures and that they are not returned to places where they may be at risk of harm,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

While the Biden administration has included some exemptions regarding the mandatory use of CBP One, it is unclear how this will be determined at the border and whether border agents will have discretion in decisions granting exemptions.  Amnesty International is also concerned that there are no exemptions for populations with circumstantial vulnerabilities such as LGBTI people, families with small children, or others, such as Black, Brown and Indigenous populations, that may face particular risk waiting in Mexico.

The CBP One application also raises serious privacy, discrimination and surveillance concerns. Amnesty International is concerned that facial recognition and GPS technologies, along with cloud storage, are used to collect data on asylum seekers before they enter the US. This technology poses significant risks to their human rights and raises serious questions about the indiscriminate and discriminatory use of facial recognition technology. 

While Amnesty International welcomes the Biden administration’s interest in adopting measures to ensure more efficient processing of asylum claims, the mandatory use of CBP One as the exclusive manner of entry into the United States to seek international protection violates international human rights law. Amnesty International urges the Biden Administration to immediately abandon the mandatory use of CBP One following the termination of Title 42 and to refrain from requiring the use of facial recognition-enabled technology for asylum-seekers. The United States must also ensure that it is not engaging in mass surveillance and discriminatory targeted surveillance of asylum-seekers through use of CBP One.

As Title 42 comes to an end, the United States must take immediate steps to ensure that everyone seeking asylum is treated fairly. Amnesty International calls on the Biden administration to invest in systems to process asylum seekers at the border without delay or detention, and to provide them with the support they need to pursue their asylum claims in US communities with access to housing, social services and legal support.

The United States must uphold the rights of asylum seekers and ensure that its policies and practices reflect its commitments under international human rights law.


Read more:

Mandatory use of the CBP One application violates the right to seek asylum (Research, 8 May 2023) https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr51/6754/2023/en/

USA: New regional migration measures will protect some at the expense of exposing others to greater dangers (News, 27 April 2023) https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/04/usa-new-regional-migration-measures/

Contact: [email protected]