A federal effort aimed at cracking down on immigrant child sex criminals has resulted in the arrest of more than 6,000 people, officials say.

Known as “Operation Predator,” the law enforcement effort is part of a two-year-old Department of Homeland Security initiative carried out by the agency’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Some 85 percent of those arrested are foreign-born, according to DHS officials; 40 percent are illegal aliens.

“We are seeing an alarming number of illegal aliens with criminal records for everything from homicides to rapes of children as young as three years of age,” states Jim Kouri, vice president and public information officer for the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police.

“The illegal immigration problem is allowing hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens to invade our nation and kill, maim, rob and abuse our citizens,” he said, adding the U.S. government had arrested more than 100,000 criminal aliens in a nine-month period.

In particular, Operation Predator:

  • Targets fugitive criminal aliens with sex offender histories for removal from the United States

  • Identifies alien sex offender inmates before they are released from U.S. prisons, because they are subject to removal from the country upon completion of their sentences.

Using federal databases, DHS officials have managed to identify thousands of child sex offenders from as many as 100 different countries. DHS officials say of those foreign nationals arrested, 42 percent have been deported.

Officials are utilizing a federal version of “Megan’s Law” – the statute that requires convicted sex offenders to register with authorities. It was named after 7-year-old Megan Nicole Kanka, a Hamilton Township, N.J., youth who was raped and killed by her neighbor, a two-time convicted sex offender July 29, 1994. New Jersey was the first state to pass such a law; Congress followed suit with federal legislation.

“Operation Predator integrates the Department’s authorities to target those who exploit children,” then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge said in July 2003, in announcing the operation.

It “draws on the full spectrum of intelligence, investigative, cyber and detention and removal functions of ICE to target those who exploit children,” says the agency.

The effort is producing results:

  • Four Mexican nationals who entered the U.S. illegally were indicted in September and charged with “conspiracy to smuggle minor Mexican girls and young Mexican women into the United States for the purpose of forcing them to engage in prostitution.” The men allegedly forced the girls and women to work in a pair of bars in Houston, Texas.

  • In August, federal officials arrested a Honduran national in San Antonio, Texas, who is charged with “indecency with a child by contact and assault.” The suspect had been on the run since 2004.

  • Also in August, a Mexican national who is a convicted child sex offender, six-time deportee and known member of the gang Border Brothers, was arrested in Springfield, Mo., after leading Missouri Highway Patrol officers on a high-speed chase. He was convicted in Arkansas in 2002 of first degree sexual abuse of a minor 14-year-old girl.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.