App for Asylum Seekers Presents Barriers and Racial Bias

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently rolled out a new app for asylum seekers to apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border. This app presents several barriers for asylum seekers, including that many have outdated phones that are not compatible with the app, or do not have internet access to utilize the app.

However, one of the most notable issues with the app is the racial bias within the algorithm which is preventing darker-skinned applicants from utilizing the facial recognition software required to submit their applications.

Nonprofits helping asylum seekers apply for asylum at the Mexican border are finding that individuals with darker skin tones, including asylum seekers from Haiti and African nations, are receiving an “error” message when they attempt to utilize the facial recognition software, and are being barred from submitting their applications.

There have also been ongoing issues with the facial recognition software not working for children under the age of 6, especially those with darker skin tones, in turn preventing families from applying for asylum together.

The CBP One Mobile app is the only way that migrants arriving at the Mexican border can apply for asylum and exemption from Title 42 restrictions. The implementation of this app is further perpetuating systems of oppression by requiring those seeking their legal right to asylum to go through a system fraught with barriers. This system has displayed a clear racial bias with worse outcomes for Black folks further perpetuating oppression of Black and darker-skinned individuals.

Immigration reform is needed, and must address systemic barriers that immigrants face, as well as the ongoing racial bias taking place within U.S. immigration policies. So far, CBP has not replied with comments to these concerns as of the time that the Guardian published their article on February 9, 2023.

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