Biden administration officials are temporarily relocating CBP One appointments away from a Texas border crossing in response to complaints from migrants who said they are being targeted for extortion.
Asylum-seekers with appointments scheduled for the Laredo, Texas, port of entry will have to travel to other U.S.-Mexico border crossings after reports of Mexican officials in Nuevo Laredo threatening to detain migrants if they did not pay, which could result in migrants missing their CBP One appointment.
The app is used by the U.S. government to allow migrants to register and schedule arrivals at official U.S. points of entry.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official did not elaborate on why the appointments for the Laredo port of entry were halted and when they will start scheduling appointments for Laredo. The official, who asked not to be named, as is common when briefing reporters on background, wrote to VOA via email.
But he did say the agency is taking into consideration “an assessment of the security situation in Nuevo Laredo and other operational factors, including relatively low demand for appointments for that location.”
Appointments scheduled before June 3 for the Laredo port of entry will be honored, he said.
Initially reported by The Associated Press, migrants said they were held by Mexican immigration authorities at an airport where officials confiscated travel documents, a printout of the email showing a scheduled CBP One appointment. Mexican officials asked the migrants to pay 1,000 Mexican pesos, about $57, to have their travel documents returned.
It is not the first time asylum-seekers have accused Mexican immigration authorities of extortion. In 2022, the SDP Noticias, an online news portal in Mexico, reported that agents had demanded about $400, up from a earlier price of $50.
This March, another Mexican news outlet, EMEEQUIS, said cases of extortion had been reported in Mexico City.
VOA asked Mexican authorities to comment on the reports of extortion but has yet to receive a reply. On its website, the Mexican immigration agency, known as Instituto Nacional de Migración, has a page that provides resources on how to report corruption.
“Here you can report acts of corruption or administrative misconduct by public servants of the National Institute of Migration (Instituto Nacional de Migración). The service is free and confidential,” it says.
In the meantime, U.S. immigration officials told VOA about 1,250 appointments are available each day, and CBP One appointments have not changed at the other seven designated locations across the southwest border.
“The CBP One appointment process provides a safe, orderly, and humane process for noncitizens to access ports of entry instead of attempting to enter the United States unlawfully, cutting criminal smugglers out of the equation,” CBP wrote. It added, “We will continue to enforce consequences for migrants who cross without authorization, and those who do not establish a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”