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Can you seek asylum at the border

Rules for seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border have been changing. Learn about the end of Title 42. Understand the process for the CBP One app, expedited removal, and credible fear interview. Find resources to help you near the border.

Updated July 26, 2023

Important: The information below includes the latest DHS updates after Title 42 ended. A court has challenged these policies, but there is no immediate change. The policies below are currently in effect. This page will be updated if there are changes. 

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. You must apply for asylum within one year of entering the USA.

Asking for 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. This is part of a larger effort to try to have fewer people come to the U.S. border. 

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.

May 2023 policy changes

On May 11, 2023, U.S. policies related to asylum changed, and Title 42 ended. The U.S. will increase processing under Title 8 law. If you do not have authorization to enter the U.S. and want to ask for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, you now must do one of the following: 

  • Make an appointment with CBP One app
  • Have applied for asylum in one other country and been denied 
  • Show that you are at extreme risk such as having an acute medical emergency or an immediate threat to your safety

People from certain countries may also be eligible to apply for alternative forms of protection inside the USA. These programs allow people to come to the U.S. without entering at the border. If you are eligible you can apply for:

  • Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans 
  • Family reunification parole process 

If you do not do one of the above and try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, you will likely be:

  • Removed from the U.S. in a few days
  • Unable to ask for asylum 
  • Banned from re-entering the U.S. for at least 5 years and could face prison and fines if you cross illegally again
There are no nationality-based exemptions. These rules may not fully apply to children traveling alone.

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. If you have already been denied asylum in another country, you do not need to make an appointment. An appointment allows you to present your information 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.

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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 be given the opportunity to make your credible fear case. You may be put in a detention center while you wait. 

If you do not use the CBP One app (or have an exception) or have not been denied asylum in another country, you will be put in expedited removal

Being detained

It is important you know your rights with U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If you are taken, stay calm. For your own 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

You will be kept in place by law enforcement and have to follow strict rules until they decide on your case. This is called being in DHS custody. The place you are kept will either be a U.S. Border Patrol or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility. 

Expedited removal

Expedited removal allows immigration officers to quickly decide if a person 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. It is not allowed for unaccompanied children. 

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. Find help.

Credible fear

Credible fear means there is good reason to believe your fear of persecution. An asylum officer will give a credible fear interview to learn more about your fear of returning.

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:

  • Why did you leave your home or country of last residence?
  • Do you have any fear or concern about being returned to your home country or being removed from the U.S.?
  • Would you be harmed if you are returned to your home country or country of last residence?
  • Do you have any questions or is there anything else you would like to add?

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.

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Other state organizations that are helping people at the border include:


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

California
Galilee Center
JFS

Mexico and California
Al Atro Lado
Border Angels
Border Kindness
Jewish Family Service 
HIAS Mexico
ImmDef
InfoDigna 
Resource Center Matamoros

New Mexico
Lutheran Family Services
Catholic Charities

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


The information on this page comes from DHS, non-profit organizations working at the border, and other trusted sources. We aim to offer easy to understand information that is updated regularly. This information is not legal advice.

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