Illegal Alien Sex Offenders Rounded Up

In a series of raids in New York and New Jersey this morning, federal agents rounded up dozens of illegal immigrants who were supposed to have been deported after being convicted as sex offenders.

The operation was carried out by immigration and customs agents under the charge of the Department of Homeland Security, which is going after not just suspected terrorists, but also undocumented aliens convicted as sex offenders who have slipped through the cracks.

The 80 people targeted have done time for brutal crimes, rapes and sexual assaults on children. They were to have been deported when they finished their time in prison, but many simply walked free and the government lost track of them, until now.

The roundup makes good on a pledge to find and deport the criminals.

"When the last day of their sentences expire, we will meet them at the front door of the prison and escort them to the border," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said in June, announcing a program to keep closer tabs on the convicted sex offenders.

The program, "Operation Predator," was created to catch child abusers and is being run by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now part of Homeland Security.

The operation uses 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.

It's not clear how such violent convicted offenders such as the ones being targeted in the New York area today were able to escape deportation. Customs officials have arrested 1,300 sex offenders since July and they say that effort is intensifying.

Arrests will take reportedly place throughout the day today, with Homeland Security expected to offer more details about the investigation during a news conference later today.

Pierre Thomas and ABC affiliate WABC-TV in New York contributed to this report.