The government said today it has arrested nearly 90 illegal aliens who were still living in the United States after serving time for sex crimes against children.
The arrests are the result of a weeklong sting involving a number of federal agencies, and authorities say they may have only begun to address the problem.
Illegal aliens who are convicted felons are supposed to be kicked out of the country once they serve their sentences. But many of them walk out of prison and disappear into U.S. communities.
Last month, the government found 89 convicted sex offenders — all foreign nationals from a variety of countries including Mexico, Peru, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines — living illegally in the United States.
For example: U.S. Customs and immigration agents in Massachusetts found Wedyn Gomez, an illegal alien from the Dominican Republic who served time for raping a 7-year-old.
At a news conference today, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the government would be more vigilant in finding and deporting these criminals.
"[W]hen the last day of their sentence has expired, we'll meet them at the front door of the prison and escort them to the border," he said.
Ridge announced a new program created to catch child abusers. "Operation Predator" will be run by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now part of the Department of Homeland Security. The operation will use a Web site to consolidate information from a variety of sources, including Megan's Law databases in different states and a nationwide system to identify missing and endangered children.
The goal is to identify alien sex offenders before they're released from prison.
"I think this sends a loud message to pedophiles who know no borders, especially illegal aliens that come here, that molest our children, serve time in our prisons and then are released," said victims' advocate John Walsh, host of the Fox television show America's Most Wanted. "[Operation Predator says] that you cannot stay in the United States, that this group will hunt you down."
Some government officials believe there could be hundreds more convicted child sex offenders who are now illegal aliens roaming U.S. streets.