In a nationwide blitz called Operation Return to Sender, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have arrested nearly 2,100 illegal immigrants since May 26.

Officials are targeting child molesters, gang members, violent criminals and others, who have returned to the country after being deported by a judge, the Associated Press reported.

“This sends a message,” said deportation officer Daniel Monico after a raid in Boston. “When we deport you, we’re serious.”

Monico and a swarm of agents surrounded an apartment house last night to arrest 35-year-old Jose Ferreira Da Silva, a Brazilian who had been deported after his arrest in 2002.

Among the illegals arrested in the nationwide blitz are 140 convicted for sexual offenses against children, 367 known gang members and about 640 people who already had been deported, the AP said.

Since the effort began, more than 800 people arrested have been deported.

“This is a massive operation,” said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the immigration section of the Department of Homeland Security. “We are watching the country’s borders from the inside.”

The agency’s network of 35 fugitive teams will be boosted to 52 with the 2006 budget, and the Bush administration is lobbying for 70.

Officials estimate there are more than 500,000 “fugitive aliens” who have been deported by judges and either returned to the country or never left.

The AP said the work that led to a series of arrests over the past 20 days began last winter as agents followed up leads and scouted targets.

Raimondi said the “problems with immigration aren’t going to be solved overnight.”

“You start chipping away at it,” he said. “The more teams we get up and running, the more dangerous people we are going to get off the streets.”

As WorldNetDaily reported, after a one-year in-depth study, a researcher estimated there are about 240,000 illegal immigrant sex offenders in the United States who have had an average of four victims each.

Deborah Schurman-Kauflin of the Violent Crimes Institute in Atlanta analyzed 1,500 cases from January 1999 through April 2006 that included serial rapes, serial murders, sexual homicides and child molestation committed by illegal immigrants.

She concluded that, based on a figure of 12 million illegal immigrants and the fact that more of this population is male than average, sex offenders among illegals make up a higher percentage than offenders in the general population.

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