The Obama administration has confirmed a large surge of illegal immigrants along America’s southern border less than a month before the presidential election that has thrust the issue onto the national stage.
The Department of Homeland Security published new statistics on Monday that confirmed at least 408,870 illegal aliens were apprehended along the U.S. southern border in fiscal year 2016, a 23 percent surge from this time last year.
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The rate of juvenile illegal immigrants being apprehended on the border also has increased, according to the statistics, which show a 49 percent jump from similar periods in 2015.
The surge in illegal immigrants comes as leading members of Congress pursue an investigation into the precise number of individuals the Obama administration wrongly granted citizenship and immigration benefits.
The issue also is expected to provide fuel to accusations by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump that his political opponents are loosening restrictions on immigration in a bid to increase the number of likely Democratic voters ahead of Nov. 8.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), a Trump ally and critic of the administration’s border policies, raised concerns that federal authorities are not taking affirmative action to deport these illegal immigrants who have been apprehended in the past months.
DHS’s most recent statistics, Sessions said in a statement, "[are] only half the story."
"The 408,870 does not include those illegal aliens who evaded detection and successfully entered the United States," Sessions said. "Earlier this year, Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest that for every one illegal alien who is apprehended, another evades arrest. This statistic reportedly has been confirmed by DHS, but the Obama administration refuses to release that information."
"Using that rate as a baseline, that means approximately 408,870 illegal aliens evaded detection, for a grand total of roughly 817,740 illegal entries into the United States last year," according to Sessions, who added that it is "notable" DHS’s statistics do not "indicate how many of the 408,807 apprehended aliens were actually removed from the United States."
Immigration experts have told Congress that around 80 percent of the illegal immigrants apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol are released and not scheduled for deportation.
"Data revealed earlier this year indicated that the Obama administration allowed 97 percent of the unaccompanied illegal alien juveniles it previously apprehended to remain in the United States, instead of being deported," according to Sessions.
Meanwhile, Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Ron Johnson (R., Wis.), chair of the Senate’s committee on Homeland Security, are attempting to force DHS to disclose the number of individuals "subject to deportation who were improperly granted citizenship and other immigration benefits."
Around 858 to 1,811 individuals have been improperly granted citizenship, according to a recent government report that examined a small portion of immigrants.