A federal judge on Friday denied a request by immigration advocates to prevent U.S. officials from turning away asylum-seekers at border crossings with Mexico if they don’t have appointments on a mobile phone app.
The ruling is seen as a win for the Biden administration, which aims to create new pathways for people to enter the United States while making it more difficult for those who do not follow prescribed methods to seek asylum.
Since its introduction in January, over 263,000 people have scheduled appointments on the CBP One app, with 45,400 appointments processed in August alone. The top nationalities of those with appointments are Haitian, Mexican, and Venezuelan.
The app has faced criticism both from the right for being too permissive and from the left for being too restrictive.
Attorneys for Al Otro Lado and the Haitian Bridge Alliance argued that the CBP One app has become the only way to access the U.S. asylum process at a southern border port of entry. They claimed that turning back individuals without appointments violates agency policy and leaves them vulnerable to danger in Mexican border towns.
The Justice Department, however, stated that there is no policy of turning back asylum-seekers and that while those with appointments receive priority, officers cannot turn back individuals without appointments.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Schopler, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, stated that his hands were effectively tied by Supreme Court precedent that limits his authority on immigration policy.
The plaintiffs are disappointed with the decision and may consider an appeal, said Melissa Crow, an attorney for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.
The government is facing challenges in court regarding its mix of legal pathways and increased enforcement in response to an influx of asylum-seekers from over 100 countries.
Another case of note involves a policy that grants a two-year stay to up to 30,000 people per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela if they apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive at an airport. Texas is leading 21 states in arguing that Biden overreached with this policy.
The challenge to the CBP One app will continue in San Diego despite the judge’s refusal to intervene immediately.