A flood of new immigrants crossing the Mexican border are using what some officials believe is a coordinated scam which has forced the closure of at least one overwhelmed federal processing center.
The local ABC News affiliate in San Diego reports
that nearly 200 immigrants inundated the Otay crossing on Monday, and that all are using the phrase "credible fear" of drug cartels in Mexico as their reason for fleeing 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.
"We are being overwhelmed," the agent said.
Unnamed sources told the News Team 10 reporters that for $300, immigrants can buy a video in Mexico that instructs them on how to beat the system by learning key phrases to gain immediate entry into the U.S.
"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," the agent said.
Pete Nunez, a former U.S. attorney who specializes in immigration issues, told the ABC station said the sudden surge appears to be well orchestrated and "makes our system even more ridiculous than it has been in the past."
The claim also guarantees special treatment for the immigrants.
Families cannot be split up in detention, and with groups of relatives numbering as high as 30 making the claim, the only option for federal officials is to release the immigrants into the U.S. on a bond system until a scheduled court hearing to prove their claim is legitimate.
But sources told the San Diego TV station that under this system, the immigrants never return and instead disappear into the U.S.
"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.
Christoper Bentley, of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, described to News Team 10 the lengthy process of gaining asylum by pleading "credible fear."
"Any individual who asserts a fear of persecution or torture … 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," Bentley said.
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