Federal agents in Maryland have arrested and are holding for deportation more than two dozen illegal immigrants and green-card holders who have criminal sex offense records, officials with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced yesterday.
The sweep, which occurred over the past 10 days, is part of the agency's Operation Predator, a nationwide effort to crack down on non-citizen sex offenders, child sex tourists, child pornographers and others.
Most of the men arrested in Maryland had records of sex offenses against children. About a half-dozen were from Baltimore and surrounding counties.
If the justice system worked perfectly, ICE officials said at a news conference yesterday, non-U.S. citizens convicted of sex offenses against children would promptly be referred to the agency. But because of the huge number of criminal defendants nationwide, and limits on ICE resources, many are released from jail or prison without the agency's knowledge, they said.
"It's not always as easy as it would appear," said Cynthia O'Connell, ICE's Baltimore special agent in charge. "ICE's goal is clearly to identify people as early in the process as possible."
Operation Predator, which began in July last year, seeks to track down those who slip through the cracks.
ICE has arrested more than 3,700 child sex predators nationwide, including 89 in Maryland, said ICE spokeswoman Jamie Zuieback. More than 450 of those have been deported.
In the past two weeks, federal agents in Maryland went to jails, homes and places of employment and to parole and probation officers to track down the men they believed to be convicted sex offenders.