White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said there’s a “crisis on the border” with Mexico, using a term that Biden administration officials previously refused to apply to the spiraling migration surge.

Psaki adopted the term while saying that the US agreed to send 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico without an expectation for border security help in return.

“There have been expectations set — outside of and unrelated to any vaccine doses or request for them — that they would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border,” Psaki said at her daily press briefing.

Biden administration officials had repeatedly refused to call the migration surge a “crisis” in what critics said was an effort to downplay the magnitude of the situation.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week acknowledged that migrant apprehensions are on pace to be the highest in 20 years, but on Wednesday he refused to agree that it was a “crisis.”

Psaki uses the term Biden administration officials previously refused to apply to the spiraling migration surge.AP

“We have a very serious challenge and I don’t think the difficulty of that challenge could be overstated. We also have a plan to address it,” he said at a congressional hearing.

In February, about 30 percent of the people crossing the border were under 18. There were 29,792 unaccompanied children detained without their parents — about five times more than in January — of whom 2,942 were under age 12, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

The overall number of people apprehended along the Mexican border increased to more than 100,000 in February, a 28 percent jump from January.

Critics say the Biden administration’s reluctance to call to the migration surge a ‘crisis’ was an attempt to downplay the magnitude of the situation.AP

The Biden administration has housed unaccompanied children in increasingly crowded detention camps pending possible placement with family or sponsors. But single adults are deported to Mexico under a Trump-era COVID-19 rule, as are families if Mexican officials have room to house them, federal officials say.

Psaki said Thursday that some migrant families are being allowed to remain in the US because “there has been some less participation in keeping some of these families in Mexico than in the past.”

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