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Federal judge denies request to block turning away asylum-seekers at U.S.-Mexico border crossings

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A federal judge has denied a request made by immigration advocates to prohibit U.S. border officials from turning away asylum-seekers at land crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border if they lack appointments on a mobile phone application.

The decision, handed down on Friday, marks a significant win for the Biden administration, which has been actively working to establish alternative avenues for individuals seeking asylum while simultaneously imposing more stringent measures for those who do not adhere to prescribed methods.

Since its introduction in January, the CBP One app has seen over 263,000 people schedule appointments, with 45,400 individuals processed in August alone. Notably, the top nationalities among those securing appointments are Haitian, Mexican, and Venezuelan.

The CBP One app, however, has faced criticism from both the political right and left. It has been labeled as too lenient by some and too restrictive by others. Advocates from Al Otro Lado and the Haitian Bridge Alliance argued that CBP One has effectively become the exclusive means of accessing the U.S. asylum process at southern border entry points.

They contended that turning away individuals without appointments goes against agency policy and exposes them to dangerous situations in Mexican border towns, including the risk of kidnapping, assault, rape, and murder.

The U.S. Justice Department maintained that there is no official policy of turning away asylum-seekers. While those with appointments receive priority, officers are not allowed to outright reject individuals without appointments, according to government attorneys.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Schopler, appointed by President Joe Biden, explained that his authority in immigration policy was limited by Supreme Court precedent, and thus, he was unable to intervene as requested.

The plaintiffs expressed disappointment in the decision and are contemplating an appeal. Melissa Crow, an attorney representing them from the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, confirmed this.

Katherine Shinners, an attorney from the Justice Department, affirmed that the judge’s reasoning was sound, describing the case as “fairly straightforward.”

This legal development is part of a broader challenge the Biden administration faces as it attempts to balance legal pathways for asylum-seekers with increased enforcement measures. The government is also appealing a decision that hinders a new rule aimed at making it more challenging to claim asylum for individuals who pass through another country, such as Mexico, and enter the U.S. unlawfully.

Additionally, a closely watched case questions a policy to grant a two-year stay to up to 30,000 people per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, provided they apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive at an airport. Texas and 21 states are leading the argument that this policy constitutes an overreach by President Biden and effectively creates a new visa program for numerous individuals without a legitimate basis for entry.

Despite the recent ruling, the challenge to the CBP One app will persist in San Diego, as legal proceedings continue.

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