The number of illegal aliens deported by the Obama administration after overstaying their visas has decreased by 80 percent since 2009, it was revealed in a House hearing on Tuesday.
And with just 2,500 deportations of visa overstayers in 2015 out of an estimated 5 million illegal aliens in the U.S. who fall into that category, the Obama administration deported just “one-twentieth of one percent” of illegal alien visa overstayers, Texas Rep. Lamar Smith said during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border & Maritime Security.
“This is in fact the fewest number ever deported by this administration in one year,” Smith said during a line of questioning with Craig Healy, who serves as the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant director for national security investigations.
“I know the administration favors amnesty. Is this … just part of their amnesty efforts?” Smith asked.
While the illegal immigration issue tends to center on individuals who cross the Mexican or Canadian border illegally and without visas, between 40 percent and 68 percent of the millions of illegal aliens in the U.S. are here after overstaying visas that allowed them to legally visit the country.
As was pointed out in Tuesday’s hearing, the visa entry system has been exploited in the past by terrorists. Several 9/11 hijackers were in the U.S. after overstaying student visas and other temporary permits.
In his remarks at the hearing, Smith settled on a hypothetical 50 percent ratio of visa overstayers, and pointed out that if it is assumed that there are 10 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S., then 5 million are here illegally after overstaying visas.
The Republican said that in 2009, the Obama administration deported 12,500 individuals who had overstayed their visas. That figure has fallen every year since.
In 2010, 11,200 visa overstayers were deported. By 2012, just 6,800 were removed. That fell to 4,200 the next year and 3,500 in 2014. Only 2,500 were removed by Department of Homeland Security agents in last year, marking an 80 percent slide in the number of deported visa overstayers.
“That sounds to me like an extension of the administration’s amnesty program. Why are you not prioritizing these individuals?” Smith asked Healy.
The DHS official blamed resource limitations. Early in the hearing he said that 100 government analysts spent 650,000 hours last year to focus on 10,000 visa overstayers who could be identified and located. Many were found to be in compliance with visa laws. Some had applied for longer term visas.
“We utilize our prioritization scheme along with the resources we have,” Healy said.
But Smith was not satisfied with that answer, saying that if the Obama administration prioritized the enforcement of immigration law it would have requested the money needed to enforce policies that are on the books.
“By deporting such a small percentage of the visa overstayers, the message they are sending wide and far is ‘just get into the country, if you’re not convicted of a serious crime, you are going to be allowed to stay, you are going to be allowed to pass ‘Go,’ you are going to get the money,'” Smith said.