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Seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border

Rules for seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border have been changing. Understand the process for the CBP One app, expedited removal, and credible fear interview. Find resources to help you near the border.

تم التحديث في March 19, 2024

Important: Different rules about the border have been proposed but below is what is currently in effect. We will update this page if and when laws are changed. This page is about the Mexico border. You can also find current information on the Canada border.

What is asylum?

Asylum is a form of protection that allows you to stay in the USA if you have been persecuted or fear persecution in your home country because of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. 

If you are already in the United States, you must apply for asylum within one year of entering the USA.

Who can seek asylum at the U.S. border?

International and U.S. law gives everyone the right to ask for asylum in the USA and at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is your legal right even though the U.S. government is passing new laws to make it more difficult.

If you have a visa to enter the USA or received authorization to travel to the U.S. for parole, you can go to any port of entry and legally request asylum.

If you do not have authorization to enter the U.S. and want to ask for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, you must make an appointment with the CBP One app. 

If you can not use the CBP One app because you can not read or you have major technical issues, you can ask for an exception at the border. They will ask you to prove that you were unable to use the app. If they accept your evidence, you may still be allowed to make your credible fear case. 

If you are at extreme risk, you can go directly to the border without making an appointment to ask for asylum. This includes situations like having an acute medical emergency or facing an immediate threat to your safety. 

If you try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without meeting one of the above requirements, you may: 

  • Not be able to ask for asylum 
  • Be removed from the U.S. in a few days through expedited removal
  • Get banned from re-entering the U.S. for at least 5 years and could face prison and fines if you cross illegally again
These laws are part of a larger effort to try to have fewer people come to the U.S. border. There are other options to come to the U.S. that may be available to you besides going to the border.

What is the process?

Make an appointment with CBP One app

If you want to ask for asylum in the USA at the U.S.-Mexico border, you must first make an appointment through the CBP One app. An appointment allows you to present your information and apply for asylum at a border entry point.

You must be in Central or Northwest Mexico to use the app. Appointments are not always available and you may have to try many times. An appointment does not guarantee entry.

(https://youtu.be/ycCejJkg6HY)

Go to your CBP appointment

You will need to go to the port of entry location at the date and time of your appointment. Bring your confirmation number. During your appointment, CBP will review your request.

CBP does not process asylum claims here but instead decides if you will have:

  • A Notice to Appear with removal proceedings in immigration court. You can apply for defensive asylum before an immigration judge. You may be paroled and released into the USA or detained while you wait for your court hearing. 
  • Expedited removal proceedings with a referral to an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a credible fear screening. 

Notice to Appear 

If you were issued a Notice to Appear, you will be in removal proceedings. This means you have to appear before an immigration judge in court. You can apply for defensive asylum and an immigration judge will hear your case. The immigration judge will decide whether to grant or deny you asylum.

Expedited removal   

If you are placed in expedited removal proceedings, immigration officers quickly decide if you should be deported without appearing before a judge. Under new policies, more people will face expedited removal from the USA.

You can be placed in expedited removal proceedings if you entered the U.S. without a visa or with false entry documents. You will be sent back to Mexico or your home country and banned from entering the U.S. for 5 years.

Expedited removal applies to both single adults and families but is not allowed for children traveling alone. Some families in expedited removal proceedings may have credible fear interviews with USCIS in the USA without being detained.

If you say that you want to apply for asylum or fear persecution, you have the right to a credible fear interview. You should not be removed from the U.S. until an asylum officer decides whether you have a credible fear and can apply for asylum. Some people are still removed without an interview even though this is a right. Learn how to find help.

Credible fear screening

Credible fear means there is good reason to believe your fear of persecution. An asylum officer will give a credible fear screening (also called an interview) to learn more about your fear of returning. You may have to wait for your screening at least 24 hours after you arrive at a detention center.

The credible fear screening will happen over the phone or in person while you are detained. An asylum officer will ask you questions. Your answers will help them decide if your claim is strong enough to go forward with an asylum interview or immigration hearing. 

They might ask:

  • What is your name, age, country of origin, and nationality?
  • Why did you leave your home or country of last residence?
  • Do you fear being harmed if you are returned to your home country or country of last residence? 
  • Are you afraid of being returned to Mexico?
  • Did you experience any medical emergency, severe harm, or violence in Mexico? 
  • Did you apply for asylum in Mexico or another country?
Be sure to tell the truth at your interview. Writing down key dates can help make sure you tell your case correctly each time. If you change part of your story accidentally, it could cause problems for your case.

If the asylum officer decides you have a credible fear, they can do one of the following:

If the asylum officer decides you do not have a credible fear, you can ask an immigration judge to review their decision in a hearing.

What to expect when detained

Most people in immigration detention are in some form of removal proceedings. Law enforcement will keep you in place and you will have to follow strict rules until they decide on your case. This is called being in DHS or CBP custody. The place you are kept will either be a U.S. Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. 

If you are taken by CBP or ICE, stay calm. For your safety, it is important to respect the authorities:

  • Follow instructions
  • Do not argue, struggle, or resist
  • Do not tell lies or show false documents
  • Always keep your hands where the agent can see them

Your rights while detained

It is important to know your rights with U.S. Border Patrol and ICE.

  • You have the right to remain silent and to speak to an attorney.
  • You do not have to sign anything before speaking to an attorney.
  • You have the right to a telephone call to speak to a family member.
  • Border Patrol and CBP officers are not allowed to use physical or verbal abuse, intimidation tactics, or make threats against you.

Detention facility

Conditions and treatment in detention facilities can be very different based on where you are. You will likely:

  • Go through an initial processing procedure that includes having your fingerprints and photograph taken.
  • Be detained in shared or individual cells or dormitory-style rooms. Men and women could be separated.
  • Have limited freedom of movement and are not allowed to leave the facility.
  • Be provided with basic necessities such as bedding, toiletries, and meals.
  • Have access to medical care. Sometimes this may be limited.

There have been cases of human rights abuse and poor conditions. It is important to understand your rights and to seek legal help if you or someone you know is being detained.

Other forms of protection 

There are other options for you to come to the USA, including some new programs that aim to stop people from traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border.

For those interested in the parole processes, you will not be allowed to apply if you are trying to enter the USA and cross Panama, Mexico, or the U.S. border. Cubans and Haitians who try to enter the U.S. by water are also not eligible. 

Safe Mobility Offices in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala can help you explore your options. You can make an appointment here.

Find help

The asylum process is very complicated. It is important to review your options for legal help. Many organizations and lawyers offer free or low-cost legal services and support. Some are listed below.

You have a better chance of getting asylum with the help of an immigration attorney or accredited legal representative. They can help you complete your application and prepare for your interview or hearing. 

Who
Offers
Contact
Free membership with legal help
Help to find services near you
800-375-1433
Search for legal help by detention facility
Help for those who have been detained
209-757-3733
9233# from a detention facility phone
Help if separated from a child or family
213-454-0527
[email protected]
Help for those sexually assaulted in a detention facility or elsewhere
800-656-4673
Help if separated from a child or family. Available 24 hours a day
800-203-7001
699# from a detention facility phone
[email protected]
Help for refugees and asylum-seekers detained in the U.S
202-461-2356
#566 from a detention facility phone
Get updates about your case
800-898-7180
Get information on family members and your case. Report problems while in detention such as sexual or physical abuse
888-351-4024
9116# from a detention facility phone
Family separation: [email protected]
Detainee locator:
https://locator.ice.gov/odls/
findhello app el paso map
Find help near you

Find legal support and other immigration services in your area.

Start your search

Local organizations that are helping people near the border include:


Arizona
Catholic Community Services / Casa Alitas
Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights
International Rescue Committee
Kino Border Initiative

California
Al Atro Lado
Border Angels
Border Kindness
Galilee Center
HIAS Mexico
ImmDef
Jewish Family Service

New Mexico
Catholic Charities
Lutheran Family Services

Texas
Annunciation House
Good Neighbor Settlement House
Interfaith Welcome Collective 
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
ProBAR
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

If you are looking for support outside the USA, learn where to find international help


المعلومات الواردة في هذه الصفحة تأتي من DHS, non-profit organizations working at the border, ومصادر أخرى موثوقة. نهدف إلى تقديم معلومات سهلة الفهم يتم تحديثها بانتظام. هذه المعلومات ليست نصيحة قانونية.

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