Issues at the US-Mexican Border
Many Ukrainians and Russians are considering traveling to Mexico to attempt entry into the United States at the southern border. There are various risks and dangers associated with this approach.
Many people fleeing danger who cannot get a visa to travel to the United States consider traveling to Mexico to attempt to enter the United States at the southern border. There are many risks and dangers associated with this approach, both because of dangers within Mexico, and because of the difficulty of requesting asylum from the U.S. government.
Danger of Crime and Kidnapping
First, Mexico can be extremely dangerous for migrants, especially those who are easily identifiable by race and language. It can be very dangerous to travel from Mexico City to the border if you are not under the protection of smugglers. For example, while anyone can buy a bus or plane ticket to the border, cartels systematically monitor border bus stations and airports for arriving migrants—these locations are hotspots for kidnappings, especially in Nuevo Laredo. Some of the kidnappings are perpetrated by taxi drivers and Uber drivers. The kidnappings are for the purpose of extorting family members for ransom payments, and migrants perceived as having wealthy relatives are at an increased risk of kidnapping.
The End of Title 42
On May 11, 2023, the Biden administration officially ended the use of Title 42, a law that permits the U.S. government to expel people who have recently been in a country where a communicable disease was present. Under Title 42, many migrants seeking asylum were turned away from ports of entry. A few were able to get exceptions to Title 42, but many thousands were stuck waiting in border towns. The lifting of Title 42 will not necessarily make it easier to ask for asylum at the border, both because of the pent-up demand of asylum seekers who have been waiting for months and even years, and because the U.S. government has issued new rules to limit the number of people who can ask to apply for asylum.
Asylum Transit Ban
The Biden administration issued a new rule, effective May 11, 2023, that would bar people from all countries other than Mexico from getting asylum if they did not apply for asylum and be denied asylum in a third country on their way to the United States. For example, a Russian citizen who traveled from Russia to Turkey to Mexico would have to have applied for and been denied asylum in either Turkey or Mexico before being permitted to apply for asylum in the United States.
However, if people make an appointment on the CBP One app to present at a port of entry and request asylum, they will not be subject to this ban. Starting May 12, 2023, the number of daily appointments available on CBP One was increased from 750 to 1000 and the appointment scheduling system was modified in an attempt to create more equitable access to appointments. Detailed instructions on how to create a login.gov account to use the app are available here.
At this time, the U.S. government considers making an appointment on the CBP One app the only way to lawfully seek asylum. It is expected that most people who obtain an appointment on the CBP One app to seek asylum will be released into the United States with a grant of humanitarian parole and served with a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings, where they will be able to make their asylum claim in front of an immigration judge.
What About Walk-Ups?
If someone walks up to a port of entry to ask for asylum without an appointment on the CBP One app, they will be subject to the transit ban unless they can show that they waited at a port of entry to seek asylum and it was not possible for them to use the CBP One app because of a language barrier, illiteracy, significant technical failure, or another ongoing and serious obstacle. People who walk up will be sent to wait in a separate line until the port of entry has capacity for processing walk-up asylum seekers.
What About People Who Enter Without Inspection?
It is important to note that by the time an immigrant reaches a border patrol station, they are already on U.S. soil. Legally speaking, they have entered without inspection, even if their intent is to immediately turn themselves over to border patrol officers to ask for asylum. Under the new transit ban, people who enter without inspection will not be eligible for asylum unless they can show that at the time of entry, they or a member of their family with whom they were traveling faced an acute medical emergency, an extreme and immigrant threat to their life or safety, or were a victim of trafficking.
The Biden administration has announced that it plans to increase prosecutions for the crime of entering without inspection. The first time someone enters without inspection, they can be charged with a misdemeanor, but if they return after they have been previously caught and removed, they can be charged with a felony.
What About Minors Attempting to Cross the Border?
Unaccompanied minors are not subject to the asylum transit ban.
If anyone under the age of 18 tries to cross the border without their biological parent (whose name is on their birth certificate), they have a very high chance of being separated from whoever they are with. This includes children under the age of 18 who are accompanied by their siblings, their grandparents, their cousins, etc., even if the non-parent relatives have a power of attorney. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interprets the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act to require legal guardianship in the form of a judicial order. Even then, if the judicial court order is in a language other than English, they often err on the side of refusing to accept it and default to separation.
The child will be considered an “unaccompanied minor” and transferred from DHS custody to Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody. This is supposed to happen in 72 hours. Once in ORR custody, the child may be moved throughout the United States to a facility that has bed space. For children over the age of 12 this usually (not always) means group homes. For children under the age of 12 this usually (not always) means foster families at night and a group home setting during the day. ORR attempts to keep minor siblings together.
Once an unaccompanied minor is taken into custody, the closest relative (preferably the parent) should contact ORR at 1-800-203-7001 or via email at information@ORRNCC.com. The ORR hotline will not give out information about the child beyond that they are or are not in custody of ORR. If they are in custody of ORR, they will send the caller’s contact information to the facility where the child is being held. Social workers will then reach out to the family to begin the reunification process. This process usually takes about two weeks to be reunited with parents and longer to be reunited with non-parents.
Instruction to use CBP One ™
Instruction to use CBP OneTM, a free mobile application for land travelers to submit their traveler information before crossing the southern border into the United States. This instruction is composed by attorney Taylor Levy, who is one of the foremost experts on US immigration policy at the southern border.