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News Link • Technology: Software

The Mexican Border-Crossing App That Suddenly Disappeared

• Motherboard.vice.com

On Monday, while a stopgap spending measure was being approved in the Senate as part of a new February deadline for immigration reform, a curious teaser videoappeared online.

"What if there was a smarter way that gave people the power to freely enter and reenter the United States with just a few taps of their smartphone?" a narrator asked.

What if?

The slick 72-second spot had largely slipped under the radar, with a mere 59 views at the time it was abruptly taken offline Wednesday evening. That's something of an irony, considering it's for a mobile app we're told is for migrants hoping to avoid immigration authorities while crossing the Mexico-US boundary on foot, including potential obstacles like the "big, beautiful wall" President Donald Trump has repeatedly pledged to build along the southern border.

It's called Bienvenidos ("Welcome") and it's billed as "the world's first community-based navigation app for migration." Motherboard first learned of the app in a cold email pitch we received on Monday from "The Bienvenidos Team" (it's unclear how many others might have gotten the same formulaic release). The project's website, Bienvenidosapp.com, claimed the app offers undocumented migrants and individuals a streamlined means of navigating the perils of border crossing, which so often involves days-long treks over harsh terrain in extreme weather. Imagine Waze, Google's free GPS-based traffic and navigation app, only for transiting the borderlands undetected and in one piece.

But in a hot-button climate around the politics of borders and people moving between them, can one be so sure? Is Bienvenidos, in fact, real?

"Yes, Bienvenidos is real and currently in development," an individual speaking on behalf of the project told Motherboard over email. "Whether it's Dreamers or DACA recipients being deported by force, or people attempting to enter the United States for the first time, Bienvenidos attempts to make border crossing simpler, safer, and faster, improving the quality of everyone's journey," said the rep, who asked to remain anonymous "given the highly sensitive subject matter that our app engages in."

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