On October 18, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton announced the removal of the largest number of illegal immigrants in the ICE history.

The agency boasted the record-breaking deportation of 396,906 individuals in fiscal year 2011, labeling its recent efforts to combat illegal immigration a large success. Yet, according to a recent Politico article by Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), the Administration’s numbers appear to be largely smoke and mirrors. “Take away the illusion,” Smith writes, “and the facts show that the administration conjures up its deportation statistics.”

It appears that DHS has artificially inflated its deportation numbers by including figures on voluntary removals. What this means is that those individuals who agree to be returned to their home countries are counted in the same way as those who are ordered to be deported by the courts. Unlike when an individual is removed under deportation orders, those who leave under voluntary removal can apply to legally return to the United States without penalty.

This “fudging” of the numbers comes on the heels of recent Administration decisions that have served to weaken immigration enforcement within the United States, including the reduction of worksite raids, an emphasis on criminal deportations, and an increase in the use of prosecutorial discretion. Earlier this year, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the Administration would review roughly 300,000 pending deportation cases to weed out “high priority” criminal alien cases from other “low priority” cases that would be dropped.

So while the Administration is throwing numbers around, seeking to appear tough on illegal immigration, in reality it is doing just the opposite. So much so that many have labeled the Administration’s actions a back-door amnesty.

Rather than continuing to erode key interior enforcement measures and perpetuate the message that once an illegal immigrant has entered the country it is easy to stay, it’s time Congress and the Administration step up and restore credibility to U.S. immigration laws.