How Mobile Pathways Simplifies Immigration: An Interview with Estuardo Cifuentes

Ana Ortega-Villegas

Navigating the legal immigration process can be challenging. Mobile Pathways, a Welcome.US partner, develops mobile phone technology that helps newcomers understand the law. Its Asylum Navigator offers people a realistic picture of asylum in the United States. Mobile Pathways participated in Welcome.US CEO Council member HP’s first Digital Equity Accelerator cohort, helping HP reach its goal of enabling outcomes for 150 million people by 2030. The accelerator supports nonprofits advancing digital inclusion to scale their impact.

As we prepare to commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20, Welcome.US connected with Estuardo Cifuentes Luarte, a newcomer who benefited from Mobile Pathways technology as he began his journey in the U.S.

Why did you decide to come to the United States? Can you tell us a little about your personal story and how you first discovered Mobile Pathways?

I never really decided to leave my country. I was forced to leave after being attacked by the national police in Guatemala. When I tried to file a complaint against the police who attacked me, they tried to kidnap me, and shoot me. Fortunately, I was able to escape, but they started a chase against me, forcing me to flee, fearing for my life.

The attack was motivated because they saw me kissing my boyfriend in front of my house. They attacked me because I am gay.

After having crossed Mexico, where I was kidnapped by a cartel for 21 days, I crossed into the United States to request asylum. However, after a few days in a detention center, the government enrolled me in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a Trump policy, sending me back to Mexico for over 18 months while I had a removal process in the U.S. I came back to the U.S. every month to see the judge, only to be sent back to Mexico.

During these 18 months, I was trying to find help and contacted several NGOs. One of them gave me Mobile Pathways' number and told me to subscribe to receive information, as Mobile Pathways could help me find out where I was.

Ana Ortega-Villegas, Program Director at Mobile Pathways, Estuardo Cifuentes, and Jeff O'Brien, Founder and Executive Director at Mobile Pathways, speaking at a Mobile Pathways Gala in 2024.

What features of Mobile Pathways’ technology helped guide you through the process to legal status in the U.S.?

After registering with Mobile Pathways, I began receiving informational messages about the border situation, new laws, and information regarding the process. One message told me how to contact a group of lawyers providing legal assistance at the border. After getting organized, I started receiving legal assistance, and that's how I met the lawyers at Lawyers for Good Government, where I currently work.

The updates were from expert lawyers but were designed in a language that was easy for us to understand, even if we weren't familiar with U.S. laws.

How has your experience impacted your relationship with your new community and your work and advocacy in this area?

This experience has been the most difficult of my life. I learned first-hand the dangers and difficulties thousands of people seeking protection go through. I've used my voice and skills to give back a little of the help I received to those currently in similar situations.

Through Project Corazon at Lawyers for Good Government, I fight daily to make the path of these people less painful, using tools and information like Mobile Pathways.

As we honor and support refugees and newcomers in June, why are organizations like Mobile Pathways important?

I think information is one of the best tools to face reality. Tech NGOs like Mobile Pathways allow large-scale information sharing very quickly.

Organizations like Mobile Pathways enable thousands of people to receive critical information for their processes. Mobile Pathways' alliances with other NGOs, like Lawyers for Good Government, benefit various groups dedicated to helping asylum seekers through their technology.

After five years, I received asylum in April. Now, I can start the process to become a legal permanent resident—maybe in another five years, I’ll be a U.S. citizen. I have had the opportunity to save my life and become the person I want to be, allowing me to work with people who need these tools.

Estuardo Cifuentes

How can Welcomers support the work of Mobile Pathways?

I would really like this question to be answered by Ana Ortega-Villegas, Program Director at Mobile Pathways.

Ana: I think Mobile Pathways wouldn't exist without our partners, because our partners are the experts. They're the ones sharing that information through our platform. So I think as Welcomers first, we need to understand that seeking asylum and refuge is a basic human right, and that our country has made those commitments at the international and national level. We have been a welcoming community, that's how our country was born. As Welcomers, we should remind each other of that kindness that exists around our communities.

And as Estuardo said, use your voice to advocate at any level—talk to your members of Congress, talk to your friends, share the work that you’re doing. Support the NGOs, support the people, use your voice to advocate for the protection of the asylum and refugee system, and speak out when there is injustice. People don’t leave their homes and their families and everything they have worked so hard for just for a better life. People are forced, and it’s a very painful journey.

Asylum Navigator gives instant insights and contextualized about asylum seekers' cases.

Also, our Asylum Navigator shows the power of information, and how information can help someone feel a little bit less stressed out to make an informed decision. For asylum seekers stranded at the border, access to information is so difficult. At Mobile Pathways, we believe technology should be used for good. With the Asylum Navigator, what the hope of our team is, to allow people who are in the process who are trying to make informed decisions on where to go and relocate to, and give them an idea of what that asylum process looks like. The Asylum Navigator dashboard shows you based on your nationality, based on if you have an idea which city in the U.S. you may be relocating into, and if you know who your immigration judge is, it can give you an idea of the outcomes of being granted or denied.

Estuardo: I use this tool every day, even for my own case. It allowed me to about the judge assigned to my case and what to face in the court.

Is there anything else you'd like to highlight?

I urge everyone fighting for migrants to stay strong, protect those fleeing for their lives, and unite to make their process less painful and more human.

Estuardo's story highlights the vital role technology plays in navigating the complexities of the legal immigration process. Mobile Pathways, through its innovative tools and partnerships, continues to provide essential support and information to newcomers seeking a better life in the United States. As we commemorate World Refugee Day, it's important to recognize and support the organizations and individuals dedicated to making the journey of asylum seekers safer and more informed.

Support Mobile Pathways and their mission to aid asylum seekers. Advocate for policies that protect human rights, share this story to raise awareness, and consider donating to support the continued development of crucial technologies like the Asylum Navigator. Donate: HERE 

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those seeking safety and a fresh start.