More than 9,000 sex offenders have been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials through a series of stings called Operation Predator in three years of operation, a 2006 Department of Homeland Security Report says. But some experts are wondering if the efforts are enough to protect innocent American children from being preyed on by returning criminal alien sex offenders.
Foreign nationals account for roughly 85 percent of child sex offenders arrested by the operation, which was launched by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in July 2003, officials say. And as WND previously has reported, authorities also have linked illegal aliens to a wave of gang-rapes across the U.S.
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The program was designed to safeguard children from foreign national pedophiles, human traffickers and international sex tourists, and in the first year alone, ICE arrested more than 3,200 child predators in the U.S. who committed forms of child exploitation.
But Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, a researcher of violent crimes and criminal profiler who consults with FBI, state and local police, told WND, "Illegal immigrants who commit sex crimes first cross the U.S. border illegally, then gradually commit worse crimes and are continually released back into society or deported. Those who were deported simply returned illegally again. There is a clear pattern of criminal escalation. From misdemeanors such as assault or DUI, to drug offenses, illegal immigrants who commit sex crimes break U.S. laws repeatedly."
Re-entering the United States after having been deported is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but many aliens try and do succeed. Schurman-Kauflin estimates nearly 100 percent of deported illegal immigrant sexual offenders will return to the U.S. and molest again.
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"Every expert on sex offenders knows that the likelihood of child predators re-offending is extremely high," she told WND. "Child molesters in general assault many victims before they are apprehended. And if they can return through an open border, it is very likely that they would. Why not?"
In fact, ICE reported a twice-deported child molester from Mexico was arrested with 25 pounds of marijuana and eight firearms in his possession in May 2004. "Nicolas Sandoval-Medina" first entered the U.S. illegally in 1996 and was deported to Mexico in July 1997. He later re-entered the country illegally and had sex with a 12-year-old girl in a Des Moines motel room, and was subsequently convicted on two counts of Lascivious Acts with a Child in December 1999. He was also criminally prosecuted for re-entering the country after deportation, a felony, and was deported to Mexico again in July 2000.
In another case, an illegal immigrant from Mexico who attempted to abduct a 7-year-old girl from a laundromat was one of 25 arrested in a sting targeting criminal alien sex offenders in Los Angeles last August. Four of the offenders, two Salvadorans, a Honduran and a Mexican, previously had been deported from the U.S. A fifth man, Alejandro Rodriguez Villegas, 50, convicted of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, also faces criminal charges but remains on the loose.
Immigration officials and Border Patrol agents match criminal records databases with Megan's law directories across the U.S. to apprehend alien sexual predators. However, Americans for Legal Immigration PAC's president, William Gheen, doesn't believe the efforts are enough.
"I think that what ICE is doing is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a shotgun blast," Gheen told WND. "ICE is attempting to target the worst of the worst illegal aliens when, in fact, we can't just do that," he told WND. "We've got to address illegal immigration holistically. You can't just hope the computers are going to tell you which ones to deport and which ones to not."
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He adds that despite some long-needed immigration enforcement efforts, immigration officials may still be doing too little too late while illegal alien child molesters return to prey on more victims.
"Before we start applauding ICE for their scrap enforcement, we need to start thinking about how many American children have already been raped and violated because they failed to do their jobs. Before I start clapping, I want to know where the hell they have been for the last couple of years."
One of the largest hurdles to effective immigration enforcement has been cooperation between local, state and federal police. Last year, officials of the House Judiciary Committee said that U.S. immigration officers and police are not always on the same page. Police do not always inform immigration authorities about arrests of undocumented aliens, and immigration officers are often too late to identify the aliens before they are released on bail.
Jim Kouri, CPP is fifth vice president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He says the problems lie with some larger police departments who have leaders with political ideologies that do not promote department policies to turn illegal immigrants over to ICE.
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"Some police departments are prohibited from cooperating with ICE or other federal agencies regarding crimes committed by illegal aliens," he told WND. "The problem is that these cities have liberal mayors who appoint liberal police chiefs or those who will implement liberal policies in spite of their personal views. However, there are many more police departments that cooperate with ICE than don't cooperate."
According to a 2006 Department of Homeland Security Report, since January, ICE has trained an additional 40 state and county law enforcement officers as part of the 287(g) program to provide targeted immigration enforcement by state and local authorities. The Immigration and Nationality Act section 287(g) grants local and state jurisdictions the ability to enforce immigration law with proper training and supervision by federal authorities.
In addition, ICE, in partnership with other DHS entities, is now detaining all illegal aliens apprehended along the borders for removal, effectively signaling the end of “catch-and-release.”
"The best way is to capture them at the border?a proactive approach?rather than catching them after they rape or molest a child?a reactive approach," Kouri says. "To do that we need to control our borders. Right now they are out of control. When you have Mexican gunmen on U.S. soil chasing away National Guard troops, that should tell you something is very, very wrong."
Below are just a few of the arrests of foreign national sex offenders by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement since the beginning of Operation Predator in July 2003. Many of the sex offenders had been deported at least once before they returned to molest children again.
- Humberto Gabriel Zamora -- On July 10, 2003, ICE agents in Minnesota arrested Zamora, a Mexican who was living under an alias in Willmar, Minn. He had been convicted of first degree sexual abuse involving a 15-year-old girl in March 2001. He was deported to Mexico in April 2001. He subsequently re-entered the country illegally and moved to Willmar, where he began working under another name.
- 27 child predators arrested in Florida -- On July 24, 2003, ICE agents in Miami arrested 25 men convicted of sexually abusing children and 2 women convicted of child abuse or endangerment. ICE agents had targeted for arrest Bayardo Rafael Chamarro, a Nicaraguan national who was a registered sex offender and who had evaded law enforcement efforts to deport him. As they prepared to arrest him, Chamarro was caught groping a 12-year-old girl in a Sears department store. He was subsequently charged with lewd and lascivious molestation on a child under the age of 16. Chamarro had been charged previously with similar crimes against minors and was a registered sex offender under Megan’s Law.
- 50 alien child predators arrested in Maryland -- On August 13, 2003, ICE agents in Baltimore announced the arrest of 50 aliens who had been convicted of sexual offenses involving minors, but had evaded deportation. Among those arrested were a summer camp employee convicted of molesting three pre-pubescent sisters.
- 13 alien child predators arrested in Colorado -- On September 13, 2003, ICE agents in Denver announced the arrest of 13 aliens who had been convicted of sexual offenses against minors, but had subsequently evaded deportation. Among those arrested was Pedro Gutierrez-Lozano, a Mexican national convicted in 1999 of 2nd degree sexual assault on a mentally impaired minor. Gutierrez was deported to Mexico in 2000 after serving his 180-day jail sentence. He returned to the United States illegally and began living in Colorado until his arrest by ICE agents.
- Ramon Amador -- On September 13, 2003, ICE officers arrested Ramon Amador, 53, a man wanted in Minnesota on charges of raping a 9-year-old, when he applied for U.S. immigration benefits in California. A background check revealed that Amador was a wanted fugitive.
- -- On September 16, 2003, a federal judge in Newark sentenced Rafael Ruiz, a Dominican national, to 44 months imprisonment for operating a house of prostitution in Plainfield, N.J. He was involved in a ring that smuggled female juveniles from Mexico into the United States and then held them to work as prostitutes against their will. ICE agents closed down the trafficking ring.
- Fritz Laguerre --On September 16, 2003, ICE agents in West Palm, Florida arrested Fritz Laguerre based on an outstanding deportation order. Laguerre, a citizen of Haiti, had been arrested by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office in July 2002 for raping his 12-year-old daughter. Laguerre had subsequently evaded ICE efforts to deport him.
- Julio Cesar Rabago-Magana -- In March 2005, ICE deported a Mexican illegal alien who had been convicted of raping a 4-year-old boy in the basement of Mercado Central in Minneapolis. Rabago-Magana asked the boy to help him carry boxes to a basement storeroom. The boy agreed, but when they entered the room, Rabago-Magana sexually assaulted him. Rabago-Magana pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct. After serving his sentence, removal officers deported him to Mexico six days later.
- 12 criminal alien child sex predators arrested in Calif. -- On May 4, 2005, 60-year-old Martin Salgado-Rivera, a Mexican national with a criminal history that spans three decades, was one of twelve foreign child sex predators arrested in southern Santa Clara County, Calif. Salgado-Rivera’s criminal past includes convictions for the rape and molestation of several minors. His arrest was part of a daylong operation targeting convicted alien sex offenders who now face deportation.
- 47 criminal alien sex offenders arrested in N.Y. – October 25, 2005, thirty–six of the offenders were in the U.S. illegally, and fourteen were legal permanent residents. All were foreign-born and had been convicted of rape, sodomy, assault with intent to cause physical injury, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment, coarse sex conduct and possessing a sexual performance by a child. One victim was only 3 years old.
- 8 criminal alien sex offenders arrested in Washington, D.C. –- Dec. 2005, ICE Agents arrested 8 criminal alien sex offenders in Washington, D.C. and Virginia over a period of three days. All are citizens or nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico who have previously been convicted of sex crimes against children -- including rape, statutory assault on a child, aggravated sexual battery, sexual abuse, and indecent liberties.
- Gasper Almilcar Guzman -- July 10, 2006, In Sayre, Pa., the Evening Times reported he was among a group of men who were found July 10 to be in this country illegally following a routine traffic stop in Athens Township. Guzman had been convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl in Alabama in 2005. Guzman was deported before he could begin serving his five-year sentence.
- Miguel Gutierrez -- July 13, In Noblesville, Ind., the 20-year old illegal alien faces two counts of rape for taking a 14-year-old into a garage and participating in a four-man gang rape on the girl. Following the gang rape, the girl was forced into a car and raped again, according to news reports.
- Sinoe Salgado Garcia – July 21, a 28-year-old Fontana, Calif., man convicted of kidnapping and raping a 4-year-old girl, was sentenced to a 30-years-to-life prison term, according to the Riverside Press Enterprise. The child was found hours later inside a shed, thrown over a 6-foot-tall block wall, investigators said. She underwent surgery to repair damage caused by the rape and sodomy, court records show. The site reported that she also suffered three facial fractures.
- 25 criminal alien sex offenders arrested in Los Angeles – August 24, 2006, four of the offenders, two Salvadorans, a Honduran and a Mexican, previously had been deported from the U.S. A fifth man, Alejandro Rodriguez Villegas, 50, convicted of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14, also faces criminal charges but remains on the loose.
- 45 criminal alien sex offenders arrested in New York -- Nov. 29, 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and officers of the New York City Department of Probation, arrested 45 child predators and criminal alien sex offenders in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan.
The earlier report, from the Violent Crimes Institute in Atlanta, reported about 240,000 illegal-immigrant sex offendersare living in the U.S., and estimated 93 sex offenders and 12 serial sex offenders cross the border illegally into the U.S. each day.
Chelsea Schilling is a WND intern based in Texas and currently in Washington.