- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

RICHMOND — Virginia’s attorney general and federal immigration officials yesterday said they are in the process of deporting 171 foreign-born criminal sex offenders, including about 20 living in Northern Virginia.

“The bottom line is Virginia is not going to be a place where criminal illegal aliens will have any safety,” said Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican. “We are going to make sure that those people who come here illegally and violate the criminal laws of Virginia, are detained, prosecuted and deported.”

Mr. McDonnell, who plans to run for governor next year, said the offenders facing deportation were a mix of illegal aliens and immigrants with temporary legal status.

“Among the sex offenders we’ve arrested on the street are those convicted of rape, carnal knowledge of a minor, sexual battery, sexual abuse and taking liberties with children,” said Bill Reid, special agent in charge for the D.C. office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The state and federal partnership, dubbed “Operation Cold Play,” falls under the umbrella of ICE’s “Operation Predator,” targeting sex offenders across the country.

“Since [Operation Predator’s] inception in 2003, more than 10,900 child predators have been arrested nationwide,” said Vincent Archibeque, acting field director for ICE detention and removal. “Of these arrests, almost 85 percent were noncitizens, and of those noncitizens arrested, more than 5,600 have already been removed from the United States.”

Mr. McDonnell said the success of “Operation Cold Play” had a lot to do with laws the General Assembly passed in 2006 to improve the state’s sex-offender computer registry, which is operated by the state police.

That year, lawmakers also added 45 new state troopers to help ensure registry laws had teeth.

In July, Mr. McDonnell requested state police thumb through the roughly 14,500 names in Virginia’s registry to find all those who were foreign-born.

State police shared the resulting list of 527 names with ICE to determine which persons were illegally present or “aliens who had committed crimes,” Mr. McDonnell said.

From that list, federal officials discovered 135 “convicted criminal alien sex offenders” were being held in state prisons or local jails in Virginia, 84 had already left or been deported and 36 were walking the streets after having been released by the Department of Corrections.

Alexandria had the highest number with eight, Manassas had four, and Woodbridge had three.

Mr. McDonnell said the state should soon have additional tools to arrest criminal illegal aliens, thanks to a bill Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican, is pushing that would require local jail or correctional facility officials to check the immigration status of every foreign-born national in custody.

In addition, lawmakers are considering a plan that would establish a presumption against bail for illegal aliens convicted of minor crimes.

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