Overwhelmed immigration agents in Southern California rented $99-per-night hotel rooms for a sudden surge of illegal immigrants on Monday while releasing others into major U.S. cities, Fox News reports.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants crossing the Otay Pass, located just north of the U.S.-Mexican border, jammed the processing center and forced immigration agents to move them to another station. The illegal immigrants had been taught to use “key words and phrases” and claimed they had a “credible fear” of drug cartels in Mexico when questioned by the Port Enforcement Team, according to Fox10 News.

“They are being told if they come across the border, when they come up to the border and they say certain words, they  will be allowed into the country,” an anonymous source who did not wish to be identified told Fox10 News.  “We are being overwhelmed.”

To relieve the enormous pressure the influx placed on the California San Ysidro and Otay Mesa processing centers, ICE employees are working both overtime and weekend shifts to transport and then release families of illegals into Florida, Texas and Brooklyn.

Two-hundred illegal immigrants clamored for asylum in Otay Mesa, while an additional 550 surged into the center and overflowed into San Ysidro. Thirty immigrants so far have stayed in hotels, while 70 have been released from custody.

“People were sleeping on floors — they had nowhere to put them,” one anonymous source, a long-time border agent and supervisor, told Fox News. “This shouldn’t be happening. Unless there is an immediate and well-publicized policy change, this situation will become another debacle.”

The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement on the “credible threat” phrase, saying that the illegal immigrants must appear in court to claim asylum.

“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 or removal,” the statement read. “If the credible fear threshold is met, the individual is placed into removal proceedings in Immigration Court. The final decision on asylum eligibility rests with an immigration judge.”

Read more from The Daily Caller