Media and NGO reporting indicated that CBP began forcing asylum-seeking families to separate at the borderline when only some family members were able to secure appointments, via the “CBP One” smartphone app, at ports of entry. Due to a very limited number of exemptions to the Title 42 expulsions policy, these appointments are scarce, and difficult to obtain for parents and children all together.
In February 2023 CBP officers on the borderline reportedly began more strictly enforcing appointments, refusing entry to family members who had not managed to secure appointments with the app, even as they accompanied spouses or parents with appointments.
The Rio Grande Valley, Texas Monitor reported on the scene at the bridge between Reynosa, Tamaulipas and Hidalgo, Texas:
Over on the Hidalgo bridge connecting with Reynosa, Priscilla Orta, an attorney working with Lawyers for Good Government, was in line last Wednesday waiting to cross back into the U.S.
“Next thing I know, there it is, at the bridge, you’re seeing it — people are being forced to make the decisions, families are fighting, there’s crying, they’re screaming,” Orta said.
Families she spoke with also reported feeling jilted by the sudden enforcement that meant they’d have to make a quick decision.
Orta returned to frantic families in Reynosa the next day with questions that CBP is attempting to address.
“I think what’s happening now is that they are trying to correct the issue,” Orta said. “But it’s a pretty big issue, because there are no slots,” she said, referring to the appointment slots available. “They’re gone sometimes by 8:03 a.m. We have sometimes seen that the spots are gone by 8:01 a.m. And everyone knows it.”
On February 24, 2023, the Los Angeles Times cited a Venezuelan migrant who went through this experience in Matamoros, Tamaulipas:
The 25-year-old from Venezuela eventually secured appointments for himself and his wife, but the slots filled up so quickly that he couldn’t get two more for their children. They weren’t worried though — they had heard about families in similar situations being waved through by border officials.
Instead, he said, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent told them last week that because each member of the family did not have an appointment: “You two can enter, but not your children.”
— Gonzalez, Valerie. “Families Consider Separation to Seek Asylum as They Face Limited Appointments through CBP App.” The Monitor. February 22, 2023. <https://myrgv.com/local-news/2023/02/21/families-consider-separation-to-seek-asylum-as-they-face-limited-appointments-through-cbp-app/>.
— Castillo, Andrea. “Forced to Apply for Asylum on an Overloaded App, Migrants Face Decision to Split up Families or Wait Indefinitely.” Los Angeles Times. February 24, 2023, sec. Politics. <https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-02-24/asylum-seeking-families-consider-separation-shortage-mobile-app-appointments>.