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Migrant activists in US say mistakes hindering CBP One app

Migrant activists in US say mistakes hindering CBP One app

Tactical problems and some strategic oversights are blunting any help that a biometric app can offer for asylum seekers hoping to transit the U.S. southern border.

The mobile app is CBP One, created by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. It was launched in 2020 to speed legitimate land crossings by front-loading the data-gathering tasks involved in deciding migration cases.

The government recently added a scheduling function to CBP One, enabling asylum applicants to get a time reserved to cross the border. It was seen as a way to thin the crowds at border posts, increase migrant safety and expedite requests.

President Joe Biden, who is desperate to neutralize immigration as an issue, sees AI algorithms, machine vision and big data as a politically moderate option for securing the border.

Rather than positive coverage, the Department of Homeland Security, parent of Customs and Border Protection, has gotten articles alleging balky, and in some cases, biased software.

One of the biggest oversights inherent in the app is that it is no good to an asylum seeker without a phone, a local service provider or reliable Wi-Fi and network coverage.

Customs and Border Protection reportedly told the news staff at CBS8, the San Diego CBS News affiliate, that they are fixing problems. But, the agency said, migrants need to give the app access to their phone’s location services.

That could be a high hurdle for the app because many people seeking asylum anywhere are fleeing government persecution. They are leery of any government being able to locate them. And yet scheduling a border crossing and a staff meeting right now requires sharing one’s location.

Another strategic misstep: CBP One only supports English and Spanish languages. Haitians typically speak French and Brazilians speak Portuguese, for instance.

Technical problems continue to gum up the works, too.

Radio journalists with the syndicated program Marketplace say some people who are not middle-aged, cis white males are having problems with facial recognition enrollment. They say they have also found that the app crashes often.

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