US asylum policy violates international human rights and refugee law: Amnesty International

The mandatory use of CBP One to seek asylum in the United States violates the United States’ and Mexico’s international human rights and refugee law obligations, according to a report published by Amnesty International on Thursday.

The rights group found that CBP One, a mobile application designed to process individuals seeking asylum, cannot be the exclusive manner of entry into the US to seek international protection. The group stated that the application creates significant obstacles for many asylum seekers and that the enforcement of the application by the US and Mexico infringes upon the countries’ obligations to ensure the rights of those individuals.

The application was launched by US Customs and Border Protection in 2020. The Biden administration later introduced the Circumvention of Lawful Pathways Final Rule, which created “a rebuttable presumption of ineligibility for asylum upon individuals who enter the United States from Mexico at the southern land border or adjacent coastal borders ‘without authorization.'” The final rule required individuals seeking asylum to use CBP One to apply for and schedule appointments for asylum protection unless access or use of the application is not possible due to a language barrier, illiteracy, significant technical failure, or other ongoing and serious obstacles.

Amnesty International found that the application presents several challenges to asylum seekers due to the “onerous registration process, technological errors and flaws, and lack of knowledge about the application.” The group expressed concerns over the applications’ facial recognition, GPS tracking, and cloud storage features that collect data on asylum seekers before they arrive in the US, finding the features “raise serious privacy and non-discrimination concerns.”

The group also found that the requirement to use CBP One, and the fact that an individual must be located in central or northern Mexico to apply for an appointment through the application, means asylum seekers must wait in Mexico for an indefinite amount of time while seeking protection. The report found that asylum seekers transiting through Mexico are frequently “extorted, kidnapped, and experience discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence” while also being subject to inadequate conditions with little access to healthcare, education, and employment.

The policy has received criticism from other rights groups and organizations as well. The UN Human Rights Committee criticized the United States’ immigration policies in November, citing concerns over CBP One’s data protection and privacy issues. In February, Human Rights First stated that the limited language options of CBP One, which include only English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, can operate to exclude African asylum seekers.

Amnesty International urged the US government to guarantee individuals’ right to seek asylum by immediately rescinding the final rule and abandoning the mandatory use of CBP One. The rights group recommended the government increase the number of CBP One appointments across all ports of entry and stop using facial recognition technologies as well. The group also urged the Mexican government to immediately implement measures to ensure the safety of asylum seekers traveling through Mexico.