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Almost a month since the end of Title 42, rights groups say asylum is still restricted in Nogales

It’s been almost a month since the end of Title 42, the pandemic-era protocol that restricted asylum at the border. In its place, the Biden administration enacted new restrictions that require migrants either use the CBP One app to apply for an asylum appointment at a port of entry, or prove they've sought protection in a country they've passed through first.

But CBP One appointments are limited border-wide and they’re only available at some ports. Tech issues have made the process even more spotty.

Christina Asencio, director of research and analysis, refugee protection, with the advocacy group Human Rights First, said dozens of migrants who haven’t been able to get CBP One appointments are lining up in Nogales now, many are still unsure how the new asylum rule will impact their chances of getting seen by port authorities.

"They were really sort of anguished to learn that there would be this presumption of ineligibility for asylum if they didn’t present with an appointment, and they had been waiting 15 nights at that point," she said. 

Asencio said some of the migrants she met in line in Nogales were single women who had faced further violence during their journeys through Mexico. Others were Mexican nationals fleeing dangerous situations at home. She said requiring them to wait for days at the port of entry puts them in more danger.

"It places people at risk in the country they're fleeing persecution from... where there's evidence of organized criminal violence by cartel groups," she said. "There's been many documented instances of collusion with local, state and federal authorities in that kind of harm and persecution. So absolutely, it's a fundamental problem."

Seek asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border is a right under U.S. and international law. But under Title 42, migrants who approached the port without a CBP One appointment to seek asylum were simply turned away. Asencio says it's still unclear how things will work long term at the port now, but says the processing capacity should be significantly increased to address the line up. 

Asencio's findings are documented in a new report out this week from Human Rights First, Kino Border Initiative and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. 

CBP One is currently available at a handful of ports of entry along the border, including Nogales. This month, Customs and Border Protection announced the allotment of daily appointments border-wide would be increased from 1000 to 1250.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.