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New app for asylum seekers

 January 20, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Friday, January 20th.

Asylum seekers are struggling to use a new mobile app.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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A memorial is being held in Tijuana tonight, to honor two Mexican journalists killed there, a year ago.

Photojournalist Margarito Martinez was shot to death outside his home on January 17th last year.

And reporter Lourdes Maldonado was killed less than a week later.

They were among at least 15 journalists killed in Mexico in 20-22.

Two cartel hitmen were convicted of killing Martinez as retaliation for an article.

Mexican prosecutors have not revealed a motive for Maldonado's murder… but three men have been convicted.

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The recent weather has caused even more potholes, on our roads.

The city of San Diego says work to fill those potholes is on the way.

Around 150 employees will be making repairs this week.

City officials say the rainfall increased the city's daily average of pothole reports from 200 to a backlog of more than 16-hundred.

You can report potholes at san-diego-dot-gov-slash-get-it-done.

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Local beaches are gearing up for another significant climate event … this time King Tides.

In Del Mar, water levels are expected to peak at over seven feet tomorrow morning.

That has residents stocking-up on sandbags to prevent flooding.

Jon Edelbrock is Director of Community Services for the City of Del Mar.

“In some of the areas, we do have the barricades up, so that limits the coastal flooding and intrusion back onto the streets, protects some of the homes.”

King Tides are exceptionally high tides that usually occur during a new or full moon.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

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As the migrant crisis at the southern border intensifies, the Biden administration has unveiled a mobile app.

It allows asylum seekers to schedule appointments to be considered for entry into the U-S.

KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis spoke with migrants in Tijuana struggling to navigate the new system.

"Lo que vamos hacer es es crear la cuenta. Aqui te va pedir tu correo elecrtonico. El que quieras.” You are listening to Cristian Valencia trying to schedule an appointment through the U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s CBP One app. CBP One is the app asylum seekers and other migrants who don’t have a valid visa must now   use to get into the United States. Valencia, who is a migrant from Michoacan, is having technical difficulties. “Como que no da la informacion que es y se trava la applicacion. Se queda conjeleada.” He says the wifi at the Tijuana migrant shelter he’s living in isn’t strong enough for the app – it keeps crashing on him. So he came to get some help at Tijuana’s Palacio Municipal – the local city hall – where city staff are helping migrants create a profile for CBP One. The app is the latest effort by the Biden administration to deal with the migrant crisis. Since 2020 border officials have turned away 2.5 million people seeking asylum at ports of entry. Enrique Lucero is the director of Tijuana’s migrant services department. He says between 30 and 40 migrants come to city hall every day asking for help. “Todos vienen ullendo, desplacados. Llegan primero a la garita, son rechasados por Titulo 42.” All of them are fleeing their home, he says, and have already tried crossing the border. They were turned away because of Title 42 and were told to use the app. Title 42 is a controversial border policy that allows CBP agents to turn away asylum seekers without a court hearing. Lucero says there are obvious problems with the app – some migrants don’t have a smart phone or internet access. Also, the app is only available in Spanish and English. But, overall, Lucero says  there are more positives than negatives. “Entonces tiene muchos aspectos positivos.” The app gives migrants direct access to the U.S. asylum system and, most importantly, an appointment date to be considered for entry. In theory, all of this should make migrants less vulnerable to human smugglers. Nonetheless, immigrant rights activists aren’t bullish on CBP One. Erika Pinheiro is the litigation and policy director at Al Otro Lado – a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that helps migrants in Mexico. She says her office has already seen vulnerable migrants get taken advantage of. “We are already seeing people charging thousands of dollars to help folks fill out the CBP One application, especially Haitians who don’t speak English or Spanish.” Apart from the language and technological barriers, Pinherio says CBP One essentially makes seeking asylum akin to trying to buy tickets to a Taylor Swift concert. “Whether or not you get an appointment is based on the strength of your internet connection and chance. So it works like Ticketmaster. So when you have a concert that is going to sell out, everyone presses the button at the same time and some people get tickets and some people don’t. And that’s basically what CBP One has reduced the asylum system to.” There are also concerns about the app’s facial recognition feature. Applicants need to take a photo of their face to create a profile. Studies show that other forms of facial recognition technology used by the federal government do a poor job of identifying people of certain races and ethnicities. “There are really high error rates with certain races especially Black and Asian applicants so we would expect that people who are not white are going to have a harder time with the facial recognition feature.” This played out in real time in Tijuana’s Palacio Municipal. An elderly Haitian woman named Maria struggled to get the app to recognize her face. She grew increasingly frustrated as she held a phone in front of her face and waited for the app to scan. Maria tried dozens of times. The phone couldn’t make out her Black face from the dark background. People told her to turn around, to face the light. NAT noise of people telling her to turn around. And for a second, it seemed to work. Her face appeared on the screen and the app began to scan. Then – the screen went blank. Assuming Maria eventually gets the app to work for her, she’ll have to wait until at least February for an appointment. All January appointments are already booked.  Gustavo Solis, KPBS News.

On Wednesday, roughly 200 migrants who registered through C-B-P One, crossed the border into San Diego.

Tijuana officials expect another 200 to cross every day from now on.

Advocates for Friendship Park are calling on local officials to appeal to the department of Homeland Security… to once again halt planned construction of border walls at the park.

They say the newest version of the plan is a step backwards.

KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has a look at what it means for one family.

Myrna  Gallegos is a Dreamer … she has a special work permit and can’t cross the border so she’s relied on Friendship Park for almost 20 years to visit with her mom and dad You cannot hug them you cannot be with them … it will  be just like finger touch … I feel like a little relief after so many years without seeing them Gallegos says she has endured restricted access to the park during the pandemic and construction of new 30-feet walls. That construction was paused last summer due to public outcry. But this week, Customs and Border Protection released their long awaited plan for the binational park. CBP says their plan meets border security requirements and addresses community concerns. The Friends of Friendship Park say that’s a desecration of the site. They say they hoped border officials would reflect on what the park meant to families like the Gallegos. Gallegos says she’ll hold on to the memories of the happy times she had at Friendship Park … they’re the last ones she has of her father who has since died. I’m saving those memories because they mean a lot to me  She hopes others can at least get that  Kitty Alvarado KPBS News. 

Customs and Border Protection declined to be interviewed.

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People who clean the county administration building say they are being mistreated and retaliated against by the company that employs them, Nova Commercial.

The janitors are members of S-E-I-U, United Service Workers West.

They rallied with members of other unions outside the county building yesterday... threatening a strike if Nova doesn’t change how it treats workers.

They say one union member got sick after being forced to clean a basement floor using noxious chemicals and no protective gear.

They say the member spoke up the next day when asked to do the same thing and was later fired.

Christian Ramirez is the policy director for the San Diego chapter.

He had a blunt warning for Nova.

“We’re not gonna take it anymore and your days in this county are numbered and we’re gonna make sure you get the hell out of this county.”

We reached out to Nova for a comment, but no one got back to us.

The company is currently under investigation by the county.

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Coming up.... We speak with the executive officer of the House of China in Balboa Park about Lunar New Year. We’ll have that and more, just after the break.

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Eggs aren't the only thing in short supply these days.

Live chickens are also in demand.

KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne says people are trying to get around rising egg prices… by raising their own chickens.

Hawthorne Country Store in Escondido is seeing something they’ve never experienced before. Heather Thelen owns the feed and homestead supply store. And we're getting calls every day. 2 -4 calls every day. Do you have chickens, do you have chickens? Do you have chickens that are ready to lay? Were like nope.. You gotta start from scratch at this point… Feed stores are only getting baby chicks right now… and they won't be ready to lay eggs for another 6 months. But Thelen says that's not turning people away, and even the baby chicks are getting sold right away. To help with the recent interest in backyard chickens, Hawthorne Country Store is holding Chicken 101 courses in February.  TT KPBS News 

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Sunday is Chinese New Year, which is also commonly referred to as Lunar New Year.

The House of China in Balboa is hosting a Chinese New Year Festival tomorrow  and Sunday to celebrate the new year. 

Here to tell us all about Chinese New Year traditions and this year’s celebration, is the executive officer of the House of China in Balboa Park, David Seid. 

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Asylum seekers are struggling to navigate a new app that's supposed to let them schedule appointments to be considered for entry into the U.S. Then, people who clean the county administration building say they are being mistreated and retaliated against by the company that employs them.