The steady decline of illegal immigrants deported after overstaying a visa since President Barack Obama took office is tantamount to amnesty, according to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX).
Questioning administration officials Tuesday during a House Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee hearing, Smith revealed the striking and consistent drop in overstay deportations from 12,500 in 2009 to 2,500 in 2015.
“This is, in fact, the fewest number ever deported by this administration in one year,” Smith noted.
The Texas lawmaker estimated that the deportations of visa overstayers in 2015 represented fewer than .05 percent of the total population of illegal immigrants who remained the U.S. after their visas expired.
“We’ve heard estimates as to the percentage of people who are here illegally as being visa overstayers,” Smith said. The percentages range from 40 percent to 68 percent. Let’s take 50 percent. Let’s take 10 million people in the country illegally, half are here because of visa overstayers and are in illegal status.”
He continued, “You’ve got five million people now in illegal status because they’re visa overstayers. The administration deported 2,500 of those. That’s 1/20th of 1 percent. That sounds to me like an extension of the administration’s amnesty program.”
Craig Healy, the Assistant Director for National Security Investigations, responded to Smith by arguing that the removal process is a reason for the decline, saying that it is lengthy and relies on prioritization and resources.
Smith was unconvinced, charging that if resources were the issue, the administration should ask for more money in their budget requests.
“I understand that, but the administration stands convicted by their own actions by the facts, why haven’t they requested more money in their budget if they wanted to send more individuals home?” he asked, “They have not requested the money sufficiently to do so.”
Overall, Healy testified that his agency investigated 10,000 cases of alleged visa overstayers in 2015.
According to Smith, however, the Obama administration’s failure to deport illegal immigrants who have overstayed their visas sends a message that any foreign national can stay in the U.S. indefinitely once they get in, as long as they do not commit a crime.
“[T]hat is the wrong message to send because it increases more illegal immigration, it sends a message that the administration is just trying to implement amnesty by another means. and as I say it’s the wrong message to send if you’re serious about trying to address illegal immigration in America,” he said.