A Texas congressman sharply disputed claims of record deportations of illegal immigrants on President Obama’s watch when the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Jeh Johnson, appeared for a House hearing.

The administration is “inflating” deportation statistics, so they are “inaccurate,” Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) told Johnson during the hearing last week.

“The administration has been making a sales pitch that they are deporting or removing record numbers of individuals compared to previous administrations,” Smith said in the Feb. 26 confrontation. In fact, interior deportations by prior Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) standards actually are “down 40 percent since 2009.”

The difference, Smith noted, is that unlike its predecessors the Obama administration also counts “turn-backs” or “turn-arounds” at the border as “deportations.” But according to ICE, these are cases of individuals who were “attempting to unlawfully enter the U.S.” but who actually had not successfully done so.

“You’re inflating your figures so that you can claim to be setting records when in fact you’re not,” Smith told Johnson, saying the practice is “simply not accurate.”

James Jay Carafano Jr., a national security expert who is The Heritage Foundation’s vice president for defense and foreign policy, told The Foundry that the misleading White House rhetoric is intentional. Carafano said:

“With all the focus on the border, many have missed the fact that Obama has gone after the real Achilles heel of the system’s credibility. He is gutting internal enforcement of immigration laws, and without respect for these laws it’s meaningless to say Americans have a say in how this nation’s immigration system is run.”

Obama has taken heat for the deportation statistics from proponents of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Yet according to the Center for Immigration Studies, his first term saw “the lowest total and annual average [of deportations] since the mid-1970s.” The CIS report added that “the real record for deportations belongs to the Clinton administration.”

Johnson responded to committee members’ concerns by vowing to look into the numbers and to prioritize border security. On this issue, he said, “there’s always more work to do.”

This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.