Hundreds of people near an El Paso, Texas, border crossing who tried to enter the US from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Sunday were met with physical barricades erected by shield-wielding authorities, according to reports on what is the latest episode to pit US immigration officials against a group of migrants.
Many of the migrants, who were largely Venezuelan, had gone to the center of the Paso del Norte international bridge to determine whether a rumor that the border had been temporarily opened to them was true, the Texas Tribune reported. Many trying to flee lives in Mexico, where they cannot legally work and are often confronted by police, had hurried through toll booths on the Mexican side of the bridge and arrived at the center.
Faced with the large crowd, authorities from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) temporarily closed down the crossing to all traffic and enacted “port-hardening efforts” – such as physical barriers and officers with shields – to prevent the migrants from entering the US at about 1.30pm local time. After the migrants left at about 6pm local time, officials began reopening the crossing and allowing those with proper documents to enter the country again, the news outlet said.
A spokesperson for CBP, Roger Maier, said the group of migrants posed a “potential threat to make a mass entry”, according to the Associated Press. Physical barricades were also implemented at two other bridges, Maier reportedly said.
Many of the migrants who tried crossing the border were reportedly exhausted both by the difficulties of living in Juárez as well as by an immigration smartphone app which has been criticized as having numerous shortcomings. One woman told the Texas Tribune that she and her partner have been trying to get permission to come to the US but been unable to set an appointment using the US government’s mobile app despite their daily attempts.
The woman, who like many was frustrated by the app’s difficult user interface, said they were motivated to see whether the bridge was open without restrictions after coming across a Facebook post.
“On Facebook, we saw an image that said they were going to open [the bridge] today because it was Migrants’ Day, something like that,” the newspaper quoted her as saying. “We just want an answer, so we came to see if it was true.”
The US Department of Homeland Security recently introduced the app, CBP One. Migrants from Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela are now required to use it if they want to participate in a “humanitarian parole” program, according to the Texas Tribune.
The US government said earlier this year that it was the only way migrants at the border could apply for asylum and exemptions from a decades-old code called Title 42. While Title 42 was made in relation to public health and welfare, permitting officials to take emergency action to “stop the introduction of communicable diseases”, as PBS reported, then president Donald Trump widely wielded it beginning in March 2020.
Trump presented his use of Title 42 as a precaution against Covid-19.
The app has also generated criticism that it is vulnerable to racial bias. Advocates maintain that the app has barred many Black migrants from being able to submit claims because the technology fails to register people with darker skin tones.
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