New numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show a startling uptick at the border among children and families. They spiked by more than 100 percent between January and February. Kids crossing alone rose 60 percent to more than 9,000.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is deploying 500 Texas National Guard to the border to assist the federal government with the surge.
"There is a crisis on the Texas border right now with the overwhelming number of people who are coming across," said Abbott on Tuesday.
The White House has hesitated to call it a crisis. Roberta Jacobson, the coordinator for the Southern Border, said Wednesday, "I'm not trying to be cute here, but I think the fact of the matter is we have to do what we have to do regardless of what anyone calls the situation."
Until Wednesday, reporters had struggled to get numbers. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki deflected questions about how many have come to the border.
"I'm not going to confirm numbers here," she said. "Those numbers are tracked by the Department of Homeland Security. So I'm certainly--I'm just suggesting that you talk to them about specifics."
On Wednesday, the CBP reported that close to 29,000 families or unaccompanied children arrived at the border in February, the highest number since October 2019.
The total number of people CBP encountered was up 28 percent from January. Many are migrants who were recently turned back and were attempting to cross again.
Nearly three-quarters were single adults and the Biden administration is sending the vast majority back to Mexico under a public health order that started at the beginning of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the administration is scrambling to finding housing for children and families who've arrived recently, mainly from Central America. It's using government and private facilities to hold them for several days while it evaluates asylum claims.
Republicans have blamed the surge on the president's immigration policies and support for a pathway to citizenship.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted, "We're seeing a surge of unaccompanied children coming across the border. Why? Joe Biden promised amnesty."
Jacobson admitted that smugglers have used Biden's policies to persuade Central Americans to make the journey to the U.S. this spring. "Surges tend to respond to hope and there was a significant hope for a humane policy after 4 years of pent-up demand," she said.