OAN’s Brooke Mallory
4:22 PM – Monday, June 12, 2023
After campaigners notified U.S. officials that immigrants were being targeted for extortion at a Texas border crossing that connects to an infamously dangerous Mexican city, the Biden administration stopped taking mobile app appointments to admit asylum-seekers.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided no statement for its decision to suspend arranging new appointments for the Laredo crossing using the CBP One app.
Numerous asylum seekers told the press that Mexican officials at Nuevo Laredo threatened to detain them and force them to skip their planned asylum appearances unless they paid up.
Humanitarian groups in the region claim to have recently notified CBP of their concerns and that particular groups were restricting entry to the international border on the Mexican side.
According to immigrant activists, the situation in Nuevo Laredo, which is plagued by cartel warfare and other concerns, undermines the administration’s assertion that Mexico is a safe refuge for the record number of migrants escaping violence in Central America and elsewhere.
29-year-old Rafael Alvarez, who escaped Venezuela, claimed that when he arrived in Nuevo Laredo in early June, Mexican immigration officials confiscated his travel documentation, including a printout of the email confirming his CBP One appointment, and they demanded that he pay them $1,000 Mexican pesos, which is around $57 dollars. He was detained among other migrants.
“They would tell us covertly, ‘You’re going to put the money in this envelope and pass it to us,’” Alvarez said, referencing what officials told him.
He claimed that the officials threatened to hold them so that their appointments would be canceled.
Alvarez, who had an appointment the next day, claimed he refused to pay and was eventually freed, but five Russians who were detained with him had paid a total of 5,000 pesos, or $290. They were first told to pay twice as much, but they informed officials that they did not have enough money.
Other Venezuelan immigrants who went to Nuevo Laredo in late May, according to Alvarez, also paid to have their passports returned.
Thousands of asylum seekers are detained in border cities in Mexico, waiting for an appointment to seek protection in the United States after being prevented from doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic by a public health restriction known as Title 42, which was abolished last month.
Though the government has created some new immigration channels, the fate of many people is primarily in the hands of CBP, the app for arranging an appointment at the entrance point.
CBP prioritizes individuals who have an app appointment, while anyone without one can still try to be allowed in person. Those with an urgent medical condition or those facing abduction or death can also request to be admitted in person.
Laredo was reportedly one of the least busy crossings for asylum appointments, with most of the appointments seen in San Diego, California, and Brownsville, Texas.
Migrants have frequently complained about being compelled to pay bribes to Mexico’s immigration system, where corruption is firmly embedded, and at times purportedly working directly with traffickers.
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