A federal judge on Friday rejected a legal challenge by migrant advocates to ban U.S. officials from turning away asylum seekers at Mexican border crossings if they don’t have an appointment on a mobile phone app..
The decision represents a victory for the government of President Joe Biden and its strategy to create new routes to enter the United States while making it difficult 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 nationalities of the people scheduled for appointments are Haitian, Mexican, and Venezuelan.
The application, launched by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has been criticized on the right as too permissive and the left as too restrictive.
CBP One becomes “the only mechanism to access the asylum process in the United States at a (port of entry) at the southern border,” lawyers for the advocacy groups Al Otro Lado and Alianza Puente Haitiano said in a report ahead of 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 are given priority, the Border Patrol cannot “return” those without appointments, 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.
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 has 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.
Another closely watched case challenges a policy to grant a two-year stay to up to 30,000 people a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela if they apply online at a financial sponsor and arrive at an airport. Texas led 21 states in arguing that Biden overreached, saying it was “equivalent to creating a new visa program that allows hundreds of thousands of foreigners to enter the United States without’ y grounds for doing so.”
The challenge to CBP One will continue in San Diego, although the judge on Friday declined to intervene immediately.