McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A desktop version of the much-criticized CBP One app will be available by the end of April for migrants who want to register for asylum appointments at U.S. ports of entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told Border Report on Wednesday.
However, asylum-seekers are still required to log onto the CBP One app using a cellphone in Central and Northern Mexican cities in order to schedule appointment dates and U.S. port locations, the spokesperson said. Using the desktop version will only allow migrants to fill in necessary registration information, and is not intended for actual appointment scheduling.
This change comes as Title 42 — the pandemic-era health policy that has prevented migrants from claiming asylum at the U.S. border — is set to end on May 11, after which officials expect upwards of 13,000 migrants per day at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Migrant advocates have long called for a desktop version of the application, which CBP began mandating in January that asylum-seekers use to schedule humanitarian interviews for Title 42 exceptions at U.S. ports of entry to make their claims for asylum.
Since the start of its use, advocates and migrants have complained the CBP One app has had glitchy service and often freezes and crashes. Part of this is due to spotty Wi-Fi in Mexico, which the spokesperson says the United States government has no control over.
The app currently extends only to major population areas in Central and Northern Mexico, and as far south as Mexico City, but the spokesperson says CBP does not have expansion plans for geo-locations farther south.
Border Report asked why DHS is not expanding the geo-location services to southern Mexico and other Latin American countries with so many lawmakers discussing reducing what’s called the “pull factors” that entice migrants to travel north through dangerous countries. But the spokesperson said they have no more information.
One feature of the app called “liveness detection” has been the root of problems with the app and bandwidth overload, the official said. Liveness detection is required to determine via geo-location where a migrant is and to ensure the app is interacting with a real person scheduling an appointment. Currently, the liveness detection does not extend farther than Central Mexico.
CBP officials say they have upgraded the operating system, including an update that was pushed for Android phones on Tuesday that fixes usability problems.
Other recent changes and fixes to the app, CBP officials say they have implemented include:
- Appointment scheduling time now begins at 11 a.m. CT, changed from 8 a.m. CT, to reduce usage overload in the early morning work hours.
- The app is now available in Haitian Creole, as well as English and Spanish.
- Families and groups can schedule appointments together.
- The registration process now has two phases. Data collection during registration is separate from appointment scheduling, which officials says reduces bandwidth usage needs that had been stressing the app.
“We continue to work the process of improvements,” the CPB spokesperson said. “And we continue to enhance it due to friendliness and serviceability. And it’s been very successful in enabling non-citizens to seek an exception to Title 42, schedule their arrival and create a safe, humane and orderly process at the ports of entry that we need to have.”
CBP officials say they plan to continue to use the app to schedule interview appointments after Title 42 lifts on May 11.
“Once Title 42, the public health order, is no longer in place we will continue to use CBP One as the scheduling mechanism for non-citizens,” the spokesperson said.
That might cause a change to the way the app reads, because migrants no longer will be filling out interviews for exceptions to Title 42 but for humanitarian interviews. No additional information was provided on Wednesday, and DHS officials say asylum-seekers and migrant advocates should continue to watch the app closely for changes and updates.
The app currently schedules appointments at these eight U.S. ports of entry:
- Calexico, California
- San Ysidro, California
- Nogales, Arizona
- El Paso, Texas
- Laredo, Texas
- Eagle Pass, Texas,
- Hidalgo, Texas
- Brownsville, Texas
The CBP One app is not a new app, DHS has used it since 2020 for travelers who want to send their information online to more quickly enter ports. It also is used by bus lines and trucking companies. When asked if a new app will be developed just for asylum-seekers, the CBP official said currently there are no plans and defended the usability of the current technology, which they say is constantly evolving and getting better.
Over 75,000 appointments have been scheduled by asylum-seekers using the CBP One app since January, the official said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com