SAN DIEGO - Team 10 learned of a loophole allowing hundreds of immigrants into the country from Mexico.
Sources said immigrants are being taught to use "key words and phrases" to be allowed to enter and stay in the country.
Border agents said 199 people came through the Otay crossing Monday claiming a "credible fear" of the drug cartels in Mexico.
"They are being told if they come across, when they come up to the border and they say certain words, they will be allowed into the country," said a border agent who wanted to remain anonymous.
Sources said there were so many people doing this on Monday that they had to close down the Otay processing center and the overflow was shipped by vans to the San Ysidro station.
"We are being overwhelmed," said the agent.
Former U.S. Attorney and immigration expert Pete Nunez said this appears to be a new way people are getting to stay in the country.
"This appears to be a well-orchestrated attempt by whoever that makes our system even more ridiculous than it has been in the past," said Nunez.
Team 10 sources said the immigrants tell the port enforcement team or PET that the cartels are ripping their state apart.
They tell the officers that they come from the interior of Mexico, including the states of Sinaloa and Michochan.
With this "credible fear" hanging over their heads, the immigrants get special treatment.
Families as large as 30 people have been arriving at the border and making the claim.
"There are no detention facilities for families so the family would have to be split up. We don't want to split families up, so we end up releasing people out into the community on bond, on bail," said Nunez.
Agents told Team 10 the immigrants get a court date and are supposed to return to prove that their "credible fear" claim is legitimate. The problem, according to two sources, is that they never come back and end up disappearing into the United States.
"It's a huge loophole. If the government doesn't figure out some way to combat it, they are going to be deluged," said Nunez.
Sources told Team 10 there is also a video for sale in Mexico for $300 that teaches immigrants exactly what to say and how to act in order to be let into the United States.
Sources said there are also one-on-one instructional sessions teaching people how to beat the system -- for a price.
"There has to be a policy change, something implemented, an emergency implication that will stop this, or otherwise we will have thousands coming in, into the United States," said the agent.
Nunez said one way to stop this is to not allow immigrants in the country while they wait for the court date to prove their "credible fear" claim.
Team 10 spoke with Christoper Bentley with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington, DC. We asked him to explain “credible fear” and how the system is supposed to work.
Any individual who asserts a fear of persecution or torture or an intention to seek asylum during the course of the expedited removal process is referred to an USCIS asylum officer for an interview to determine if the individual has a credible fear of persecution or torture. Credible fear determinations are dictated by long standing statute, not an issuance of discretion. The USCIS officer must find that a “significant possibility” exists that the individual may be found eligible for asylum or withholding of removal. If the credible fear threshold is met, the individual is placed into removal proceedings in Immigration Court, where the individual may apply for relief from removal, including asylum. The final decision on asylum eligibility rests with an Immigration Judge.
UPDATE: When Team 10 broke the story on the “leaks” at the international border, it started an effort to locate who is talking to us -- this is a normal reaction by a federal agency.
These sources tell Team10 that Customs and Border Patrol management is looking “very hard” to find who is providing us information about the loophole.
This appears to go beyond the usual response to a news story involving the agency.
As described to us, the search is “very intense” and it’s not limited to only the San Diego region.
The policy of Team 10 is to protect our sources. As more develops on this story, we will report it.