SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Jefferson Sosa showed up bright and early for his asylum interview Wednesday morning at Ped West, one of two pedestrian crossings between San Diego and Tijuana.
Sosa secured the first appointment allocated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s CBP One app designed to help asylum-seekers set up interviews to begin their asylum cases.
“By the grace of God I’m here,” Sosa said in Spanish.
He told Border Report and other members of the media that he arrived in Tijuana on Jan. 5 after being expelled from the United States.
The Venezuelan national was sent to a shelter in Tijuana where he was able to connect to CBP One and secure his appointment.
“It was simple, not complicated at all, it took about 10 minutes to get everything done,” he said.
CBP began allowing migrants to make appointments up to two weeks out using its website and through CBP One.
The app is part of the process to phase out Title 42, a public health order that the government has used to deny migrants the right to claim asylum since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Until now, CBP has arranged exemptions through advocates, churches, attorneys and migrant shelters, without publicly identifying them or saying how many slots were available.
The advocates have chosen who gets in, with CBP having the final say.
Under the new system, migrants apply directly to the agency and a government official will determine who gets in. Their appointments will be at one of eight crossings including Brownsville, El Paso, Hidalgo and Laredo in Texas; Nogales, Arizona; and Calexico and San Diego’s Ped West in California.
“I’m very happy and grateful,” Sosa said.
Like other migrants, in order to qualify for the program, Sosa must have a sponsor in the United States. In his case his, he said, his grandparents and uncles in Tampa, Florida will take him.
“These are the first to get interviews,” said Enrique Lucero, director of Tijuana’s Migrant Affairs Office. “Every day, 200 migrants will be given interviews.”
Lucero and his office have been instrumental in helping asylum-seekers navigate the CBP’ One app securing appointments in Tijuana at various shelters.
“All interviews for this month and February have been allocated,” said Lucero. “Migrants will get a notification telling them when more appointments will be available.”
Lucero expects more slots to open at the end of this month when March appointments will become available.
“There are a lot of migrants who don’t own a cellphone or don’t have an adequate phone to be able to use the app, but we have found alternatives we’ll try to help,” he said. “Everything seems to be working well and that’s our goal to be part of an orderly, secure and humanitarian migration.”