WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said again on Friday that "nobody" is being deported from the United States -- a nation that expelled a record of more than 400,000 people last year.
"The federal government has reached a point now where virtually no one is being deported except those being convicted of serious crimes," Sessions said on the Senate floor, arguing against the bipartisan "gang of eight" immigration reform bill.
The Obama administration has ramped up deportation levels to record levels, despite also calling for immigration enforcement that would give legal status to some of those being removed. It has also implemented policies that allow some undocumented immigrants to stay, such as Dreamers -- young undocumented immigrants -- who can received deferred action from deportation. The administration has argued that since it doesn't have the resources to deport all undocumented immigrants, it must use practices that focus on serious criminals.
Sessions and anti-reform groups, such as the Center for Immigration Studies, have contended that these policies are selective amnesty and mean the administration is ignoring its responsibility to deport undocumented immigrants. Many members of the House GOP agree, and voted on Thursday, along with three Democrats, to take away the Department of Homeland Security's ability to stop deportation using discretion on cases it views as low priority.
A spokesman for Sessions confirmed the senator does not believe the record deportation numbers were truthful. Since removal numbers include people sent away by Customs and Border Protection, some opponents of comprehensive immigration reform say the numbers have been manipulated to imply interior immigration enforcement is higher than it actually is.
President Barack Obama has acknowledged that deportations include a large number of border removals.
"[T]he statistics are actually a little deceptive because what we’ve been doing is with the stronger border enforcement we’ve been apprehending folks at the borders and sending them back," he said in September 2011. "That is counted as a deportation, even though they may have only been held for a day or 48 hours, sent back -- that’s counted as a deportation."