U.S. immigration officials expect over 2 million migrants to reach the country’s southern border by the end of the year. They’re counting on face recognition to streamline processing of those who seek asylum.

What’s new: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency developed an app called CBP One that matches asylum seekers with existing applications, Los Angeles Times reported.

How it works: Would-be immigrants who feel their lives are in danger in their home country —  — most of whom come from violence-wracked parts of Mexico and Central America — can apply for asylum status in the U.S. Some 70,000 who have applied remain in Mexico awaiting a decision. CBP One is designed to expedite acceptance or rejection when those people return to the border.

  • Asylum seekers can submit a photo portrait to check the status of their application: open or closed.
  • If their case remains open, they can use the app to arrange a Covid-19 screening, find an appropriate point of entry, and request permission to enter.
  • The app has helped officials process more than 11,000 cases in recent weeks.

Yes, but: Privacy experts are concerned about data collection and surveillance of migrants who have little choice but to use the app. Confidentiality is also a worry, since hackers stole 180,000 images from a border patrol database in 2018.
Behind the news: Launched in October, the app initially was limited to cargo shippers, pleasure boaters, and non-immigrant travelers. In May, however, the number of migrants surged, and the agency received emergency approval to bypass privacy laws and use the app to process applications to enter the country.

Why it matters: Many migrants who arrive at the southern U.S. border are fleeing poverty, gang violence, political instability, and climate change-induced environmental crises. AI could help those in danger find refuge more quickly.

We’re thinking: Immigration is hugely beneficial to the U.S., and AI can help scale the process. But it’s crucial that the policies we scale are fair, transparent, and astute rather than biased or xenophobic.

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