By Alexander Bolton - 03/26/14 11:57 AM EDT
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a vocal opponent of granting citizenship to illegal immigrants, says law enforcement statistics show the Obama administration has already granted de facto amnesty to millions of illegal U.S. residents.
Sessions argues enforcement statistics show that record high deportations under the Obama administration almost solely consist of people convicted of serious criminal offenses, caught in the act of crossing the border illegally and fugitives for deportation.
Citing a review of published Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics for 2013, Sessions estimates that 99.9 percent of illegal immigrants and people who overstayed their visas were allowed to stay in the country as long as they didn’t have criminal records.
“The evidence reveals that the administration has carried out a dramatic nullification of federal law. Under the guise of setting ‘priorities,’ the administration has determined that almost anyone in the world who can enter the United States is free to illegally live, work and claim benefits here as long as they are not caught committing a felony or other serious crime,” Sessions said in a statement.
President Obama has come under pressure in recent weeks from immigration activists and Democrats, such as Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to ease back on deportations, while immigration reform legislation remains stalled in Congress.
Sessions says illegal immigrants who do not fall within the administration’s priority categories are allowed to work in the United States and receive taxpayer benefits. He noted a report by The Associated Press that 179 illegal workers taken into custody at a Phoenix car wash last year were quickly released because they did not have outstanding warrants or criminal convictions.
“American workers and taxpayers are entitled to the protections our immigration laws afford, yet the administration has suspended these protections, producing lower wages and higher unemployment,” Sessions said.
“Congressional Democrats have empowered this state of lawlessness,” he added.
Sessions argues a close examination of deportations in 2013 shows that an illegal immigrant without a serious criminal record is largely exempt from immigrant law enforcement in the interior of the country. About two-thirds of deportations were border apprehensions.
He says law enforcement statistics show that 82 percent of interior removals in 2013 were of convicted criminals. Of the 23,000 people deported without criminal convictions, 13,000 were fugitives or habitual violators of immigration law.
In all, law enforcement officials last year deported only 10,000 people who were not caught crossing the border, did not have serious criminal offenses or who were not fugitives or serial violators of immigration law, according to Sessions.
Given that the nation’s population of illegal immigrants is estimated at 12 million people, Sessions claims that less than 0.1 percent of illegal immigrants were deported in 2013.
“It falls on the shoulders of Republicans to reverse it — and to rescue the rule of law for the American people of today and tomorrow,” Sessions said.
Overall, deportations have gone up significantly under Obama.
In fiscal 2012, 419,384 people were deported, according to the Pew Research Center.
According to a PBS report based on data provided by the Department of Homeland Security, the Obama administration deported 1.6 million immigrants between 2009 and 2012. The previous administration deported about 2 million between 2001 and 2008, it said.
The deportations led the president of the National Council of La Raza, a pro-immigration reform group, to call Obama the "deporter in chief" in comments earlier this month.