by Caroline May 25 Jun 2014, 9:57 AM PDT

The primary driver of the flood of unaccompanied minors across the southern border is the belief they will be allowed to stay and afforded legal status, according Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

In an interview with USA Today Flake, a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight that pushed immigration reform legislation through the Senate last year, explained that while there are factors like violence and poor economies acting to push Central Americans northward, there has been a “dramatic spike” that requires a remedy from President Obama.

”It would be helpful, I believe, if the president himself, were to stand and say, ‘If you come here you will not be afforded any legal status, you will likely be deported.’ That would carry a lot more weight than a directive from the secretary of Homeland Security or the vice president,” Flake explained.

“There is no reason not to do that because it is a primary driver, the primary driver I think, of the traffic northward now,” Flake said. “But yet you’ve seen this massive spike just in the last couple of months.”

Flake also noted that the flood of illegal immigration is not helpful to the overall push for immigration reform.

"It feeds the narrative, particularly on the Republican side, that the president is unwilling to enforce the law, and when the president takes unilateral action without working with Congress, anything that feeds that narrative makes it more difficult to move ahead with legislation,” he told USA Today.

He added that while he does not believe House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat was due to immigration reform, he believes the his defeat “spooked some Republicans.”

The Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill passed the Senate last summer. This week marked the one year anniversary of its passage.