TIJUANA, Mexico — They call it “La Lista” — The List. And the thousands of migrants who have arrived in northern Mexico in recent weeks with plans to apply for asylum in the United States have quickly learned its importance to their future.

If they had thought they could just show up at any border entry and make their case for American sanctuary, they soon learned otherwise.

For the migrants seeking to apply for asylum in the United States at the San Ysidro border crossing, the first step is to get their names on The List, an informal numbering system that puts them in a virtual line for their appointment with the American immigration authorities.

It is a critical part of the American asylum application process, yet, strangely, its operation has nothing to do with the United States government. It is an entirely Mexican construct that begins and ends on the Mexican side of the border.

That said, it’s a direct result of American migration policy. For years, most migrants seeking asylum in the United States needed only to show up at a port of entry to begin the asylum process, and there was usually no delay.

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New York Times: List Controls Migrants’ Fates in Tijuana