- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

Foreign nationals make up nearly 90 percent of the more than 10,000 persons arrested in connection with crimes against children, including pornographers and molesters, under Homeland Security’s four-year-old Operation Predator.

“Operation Predator is a great example of how our transnational partnerships and wide-ranging legal authorities can work to protect children,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“In the course of this highly successful operation, ICE has investigated and arrested people who tried to use the anonymity of the Web, foreign travel or their roles as trusted members of the community to hide their crimes,” she said. “Nothing makes us prouder than eliminating from our communities those who take advantage of children.”

Of the 10,061 arrests made as part of Operation Predator, 8,601 have involved foreign-national sex offenders whose crimes make them removable from the United States. A total of 5,500 have been removed from the United States or jailed on separate crimes.

ICE spokeswoman Kadia H. Koroma said child exploitation takes many forms and the agency has targeted child pornographers, child-sex tourists and facilitators, human smugglers and traffickers of minors, criminal aliens convicted of offenses against minors and those deported for child exploitation offenses who have returned illegally.

Those who prey on children, she said, are often trusted members of the victim’s family or community. Among the predators arrested are relatives of the victims, as well as clergymen, doctors, athletic coaches, day-care and camp directors, teachers, janitors, babysitters, law-enforcement officers, firefighters and military officers, she said.

“Operation Predator is an extraordinary example of federal leadership attacking a problem across the United States,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). “What ICE has done is shine a light on the problem of child sexual exploitation.

“ICE’s 10,000 arrests in less than four years is astounding,” he said. “There are many more offenders than we thought possible.”

Those arrested and convicted under Operation Predator face significant penalties: life sentences for the sex trafficking of children for prostitution and up to 30 years for the possession, manufacture or distribution of child pornography, and for child-sex tourism.

Non-U.S. citizens, both immigrants and illegal aliens, convicted of these crimes become deportable when their criminal sentences are completed.

In 2003, President Bush signed the Protect Act, which gave ICE agents the authority to make arrests under its child-sex tourism provisions. Since the passage of the law, the sentences for child molestation have been the longest on record — including a Minnesota man who received 750 years in prison for the manufacture, possession and distribution of pornography involving young children he knew.

Those who have been removed include a Polish man in New Jersey who repeatedly molested his own daughters, an Austrian-national soccer coach convicted of repeatedly fondling a mentally impaired minor, and a Filipino babysitter in Virginia who repeatedly molested the child in his care.

“We have made significant inroads in human trafficking and smuggling of children,” Mrs. Myers said. “The criminal networks engaged in human smuggling and trafficking have become more violent and more profit-driven than ever before. At the same time, their victims are getting younger and younger.”

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