McAllen, Texas, reporter Valerie Gonzalez learned from sources that U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped giving appointments for asylum through the CBP One mobile app in Laredo, Texas. Investigating further, she drove to Laredo and was able to ascertain that the reason for the stoppage was the reported extortion of migrants by officials on the Mexican side of the border.
Gonzalez spoke on the record in Laredo with migrants who managed to get through. One recalled being told by a Mexican official, “You’re going to put the money in this envelope and pass it to us.” An advocate also said she warned CBP about the extortion attempts.
While the app remained functional at seven other crossings between the U.S. and Mexico, the setback in Laredo ran counter to U.S. claims that Mexico is a safe place for asylum seekers.
Gonzalez worked closely with border reporter Julie Watson in San Diego to ensure the story filled holes left by CBP’s lack of an explanation for the move. CBP later issued a statement confirming AP’s reporting, saying the “security situation” on the Mexican side of the border prompted the interruption.