Senate Republicans on Tuesday said President Barack Obama’s decision to defer the deportation of young illegal immigrants is the chief cause of the crisis brewing at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of children are trying to enter the country.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on the Senate floor that Obama’s immigration policies sent a signal to the world in 2012 that he would not strictly enforce the law. That change, they say, has led to the steady increase in unaccompanied child immigrants.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republicans say President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce immigration laws has caused a flood of illegal immigrants. (AP Photo/Matt York)

“This action in 2012 sent a message, apparently, to other people who were anxious to come to the United States,” Cornyn said. “So the message was, if you can come to America and you get here.. you’re not going to be sent back home.”

Cornyn displayed statistics on the Senate floor showing that there were 6,000 unaccompanied child immigrants in 2011. But he said that number has risen each year — it was 24,000 in 2013, and that’s expected to rise to 60,000 or higher this year.

McCain said the administration needs to come to grips with how its actions created new incentives for families to sent their children across the border.

“That triggered a mass movement into the United States of American,” McCain said of Obama’s deferred deportation policy.

“It’s not an accident that these numbers have up from 13,000 up to 60,000 or 90,000 depending on who you talk to. It’s not an accident.”

Cornyn said the administration needs to take five steps to help fix the problem. “He should immediately declare that the so-called deferred action program… does not apply to the children currently arriving at the border,” Cornyn said.

Other steps including enforcing all immigration laws, ensuring border states have the resources to deal with the current surge, and working with the Mexican government to strengthen both sides of the border.

McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) released a statement Tuesday in which both demand more information about how illegal immigrants are being bused to Arizona. That statement said the flood of children is overwhelming available resources, something that local reports seem to have confirmed over the last few days.

“For too long this administration has been preoccupied with telling Americans the border is as secure as ever,” the senators said. “These events prove it is not.”

Earlier Tuesday, senators released a 2015 spending bill that proposes to spend another $1 billion more to contain the situation along the border.

Cornyn and McCain were followed on the Senate floor by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who said the GOP always blames Obama for everything. She said the problem was that the House has not passed the Senate’s immigration bill, but Republicans say doing that would only create more incentive for illegal immigrants to cross.

“The only thing the Republicans can do for whatever happens, is blame President Obama,” Boxer said. “Oh, it rained today, it’s President Obama.”

— This story was corrected at 6:06 p.m. to clarify that immigrant totals cited above were yearly totals, not monthly totals.

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