A federal judge on Friday rejected a legal challenge by migrant advocates to ban US officials from turning away asylum seekers from crossing the Mexican border if they don’t have an appointment on a mobile phone application.
The ruling represents a victory for President Joe Biden’s administration and its strategy to create new routes to enter the United States while making it harder for those who do not follow established procedures to apply for asylum.
More than 263,000 people have scheduled appointments on the CBP One app since it was introduced in January through August, including 45,400 applications processed in August.
The majority of people scheduled for appointments are Haitian, Mexican, and Venezuelan.
Criticized on both sides
The app, launched by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has been criticized on the right as too permissive and on the left as too restrictive.
CBP One has become “the only mechanism to access the asylum process in the United States at a port of entry) at the southern border,” lawyers for the activist groups Al Otro Lado and Alianza Puente Haitiano said in a report before Friday’s hearing in San Diego.
Deporting people without an appointment violates CBP policy and leaves them “stranded in dangerous Mexican border towns, vulnerable to kidnapping, assault, rape, and murder,” they said.
The Department of Justice insists there is no policy for returning asylum seekers. While those with appointments have priority, the Border Patrol cannot “return” those without, government lawyers wrote.
US District Judge Andrew Schopler, a Biden appointee, said his hands were tied by Supreme Court precedent limiting his authority over immigration policy.
Disappointed with the decision
The plaintiffs are disappointed by the decision and are considering an appeal, said Melissa Crow, an attorney with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, who is representing them.
Katherine Shinners, a Justice Department attorney, told the judge that his reasoning was correct and that the case was “pretty straightforward.”
Faced with an influx of asylum seekers from more than 100 countries, the mix of legal means and more coercive measures implemented by the government have been challenged in the courts from different fronts.
The government is appealing the decision to block a new rule that makes it harder for those traveling to another country, such as Mexico, to enter the United States illegally to apply for asylum. This rule remains in effect while the appeal is resolved.