Social media rumors and a malfunctioning Biden Administration app designed to expedite the asylum-seeking process caused at least 1,000 immigrants to rush the Paso del Norte Port of Entry along the US-Mexico border on Sunday, according to reports.
U.S. Customs Border Patrol (CBP) authorities and other law enforcement agencies dressed in riot gear set up barbed-wire topped plastic barricades to stop the rush of migrants of various nationalities — mainly Venezuelans — seeking national entry by implementing such “port hardening” measures over the weekend at the international bridge.
Some immigrants involved with the massive group were heard by sources from The El Paso Times airing frustrations with the CBP One phone app that U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials launched in January to streamline the interview process through a single portal for migrants seeking to enter the country.
Luis Miranda, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, told The Washington Post last month that the CBP One app would be “a transparent and publicly accessible way to schedule appointments for migrants.”
“This app cuts out the smugglers, decreasing migrant exploitation and improving safety and security, in addition to making the process more efficient,” Miranda said. “This is part of the administration’s goals to create legal, safe and humane processes while imposing consequences on those who do not use available processes.”
President Joe Biden introduced the app amid the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to indefinitely keep the pandemic-era limit on immigration, referred to as Title 42, which allows officials to turn away migrants at the border to prevent the spread of COVID.
Biden announced on January 30 that his administration intends to end the public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic on May 11, 2023, which some argue could put an end to using Title 42 at the border.
However, the CBP One app has displayed technical issues for users ranging from frozen screens to the system crashing, Wilson Peralta, a Peruvian migrant, told Spectrum News earlier this year.
Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey addressed the issue with DHS officials last month.
“This expanded use of the CBP One app raises troubling issues of inequitable access to — and impermissible limits on — asylum, and has been plagued by significant technical problems and privacy concerns,” Markey wrote. “DHS should shelve the CBP One app immediately. Rather than mandating use of an app that is inaccessible to many migrants, and violates both their privacy and international law, DHS should instead implement a compassionate, lawful, and human rights centered approach for those seeking asylum in the United States.”
Sources from Fox News also noted a false rumor posted by an unknown Facebook user who told migrants that they would be allowed entry into the U.S. at the international bridge on Sunday after passing through the port of entry between Texas and Chihuahua state in Mexico two days earlier.
NEW: Migrants involved in the attempted mass rushing of the Paso Del Norte bridge in El Paso yesterday tell us catalysts were frustrations with the CBPOne app, and this false rumor on Facebook telling migrants they would be allowed into the US at the bridge on Sunday. The post… https://t.co/l39KWSZfJj pic.twitter.com/XlaGhzB5eG
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) March 13, 2023
The post also claimed that U.S. Customs Border Patrol officials would allow migrants with extreme cases or children to enter the country.
“The post urges migrants not to miss this opportunity, and to begin traveling towards the border,” Fox News reported.
Migrant crowds formed on the Mexican side of the bridge early Sunday morning before storming the borderline at the top of the bridge. By the afternoon, CBP officials said authorities temporarily prevented the northbound flow of traffic into the U.S. after migrants approached the international boundary and threatened to make a mass entry.
Authorities said two other “temporary disruptions” occurred at the Stanton crossing and the Bridge to America, causing law enforcement to set up barricades.
As many as 4.9 million migrants have crossed into the United States under the administration of President Joe Biden, according to data from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Some 66 individuals from the terror watchlist crossed the border between October 2021 and July 2022; in the previous five years combined, only 30 aliens from the terror watchlist had been apprehended.
CPB authorities encountered more than 2.3 million migrants in the fiscal year 2022, with more than 80,000 migrants entering through El Paso between August and December of last year.