You already knew this thanks to Jeff Sessions’s office, but data from a Republican senator circulating among conservatives can be safely ghettoized by lefties. Not so a splashy report in LA’s biggest paper. Someone in the media is very far off-message at a moment when amnesty fans and their partners in the Democratic leadership are hard at work trying to convince the public that, if anything, Obama’s been too strict in deporting illegals. That’s why he needs to shift to a more forgiving, “humane” policy.

Sixty-eight thousand illegals with criminal records were released last year. What’s the target number this year?

Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since [Obama’s] first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009…

Until recent years, most people caught illegally crossing the southern border were simply bused back into Mexico in what officials called “voluntary returns,” but which critics derisively termed “catch and release.” Those removals, which during the 1990s reached more 1 million a year, were not counted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s deportation statistics.

Now, the vast majority of border crossers who are apprehended get fingerprinted and formally deported. The change began during the George W. Bush administration and accelerated under Obama. The policy stemmed in part from a desire to ensure that people who had crossed into the country illegally would have formal charges on their records.

In the Obama years, all of the increase in deportations has involved people picked up within 100 miles of the border, most of whom have just recently crossed over. In 2013, almost two-thirds of deportations were in that category.

In other words, “deportations” today covers a much broader segment of illegals than it used to. That’s for a good cause: By formally deporting someone who’s just been caught trying to cross the border, the removal goes on his record and can trigger a criminal prosecution if he tries to enter the United States again. (It’s not a crime to cross the border without authorization once. Only if you’re deported and then cross again is criminal law implicated.) So DHS, by treating border apprehensions and removals as formal “deportations,” is marginally increasing the deterrent to illegal entry next time. But that means Obama’s “deportation” numbers can’t be meaningfully compared to his predecessors’; his numbers subsume all removals whereas Clinton’s and Bush’s numbers distinguished between people removed after being caught at the border versus people caught inside the U.S. If you lump those categories together, then the “deporter-in-chief” is actually more slack about removals than Dubya was. And why is that important? Because: The whole reason the left is upset about the allegedly large number of deportations under Obama is that it means more illegals are being cruelly uprooted from their homes in the U.S. after spending years here — in theory. In reality, most of the illegals who are being “deported” have only spent a few hours or days in America. They’re caught by the Border Patrol on the way in, processed, and then “deported.” Meanwhile, those who actually do make it to the inner United States are almost uniformly safe from deportation later. In the words of the former acting director of ICE, quoted by the Times, “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it’s just highly unlikely to happen.” So much for cruelty.

Let me throw you a curveball now. What if the truth about Obama’s deportations was leaked to the Times by … the White House itself? Remember, the politics of these numbers are tricky for them. On the one hand, they want to reassure amnesty opponents that the law’s being enforced so that Republicans will have more freedom to join with O on comprehensive immigration reform. On the other hand, they want amnesty supporters to know that Obama’s on their side. The more they reassure border hawks by touting artificially beefy numbers about deportation, the angrier immigration activists get at the “deporter-in-chief.” Maybe the heat from the latter group is now so intense, with so much political damage to Democrats being done by it — see this eye-opening NYT piece about disgruntled Latino voters staying home on election day — that Obama feels he needs to do something to get them to back off. Result: Tipping an LA paper, which serves a large population of Mexican-American readers, to the fact that his ugly deportation numbers aren’t so ugly after all. Hmmmmm.