- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2021

Border Patrol agents in the San Diego area nabbed 25 illegal immigrant sex offenders in all of 2020. Now they have arrested 12 in just the past two months.

In Del Rio, a once-quiet part of the border in Texas, law enforcement said arrests of Border Patrol sex offenders are up a staggering 2,500% this year. On one day in March, agents nabbed three offenders in just three hours, part of a flurry of seven offenders in less than two weeks.

All along the U.S.-Mexico boundary, agents report an “alarming” number of sex offenders attempting to sneak in, another grim reality of the border surge.

The latest came Monday when agents in McAllen, Texas, nabbed a 49-year-old man convicted of sexual abuse in 2016 after a 2014 incident involving a 9-year-old girl.

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said it’s a simple matter of math. More people are rushing the border, and more of them are sex offenders.

“Everybody knows that right now is the best time to try to get across because you’ve got a much better chance of evading apprehension,” Mr. Judd told The Washington Times.

Agents find the offenders during their routine patrol duties and usually realize whom they have in custody only when they run record checks.

Some migrants are caught solo, while others are part of large groups. Those groups often include children, who agents suggested can become targets for predators.

Over the weekend, agents in McAllen spotted a group of 10 illegal immigrants, including one juvenile traveling without parents. They also found 28-year-old Raul Sanchez-Sanchez, convicted of raping a child in Washington state in 2016.

Last month, a man with a 2018 felony sex offense conviction in New York was caught near Hidalgo, Texas, in a group of 14. One of them was an unaccompanied boy.

In Yuma, Arizona, agents in late April nabbed Mario Roberto Pacheco, whose criminal record includes convictions for cocaine possession and sexual battery against a child, and Jorge Perez-Diaz, whose record has felony convictions for lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor.

Perez-Diaz had been deported from the U.S. on March 22. Agents caught him in the desert in western Arizona on April 26.

The three offenders caught in Del Rio in three hours included a man convicted of sexual assault against two juveniles, another man convicted of sexual assault against a child and another with a sexual abuse conviction.

“We continue to see an increase in convicted sex offenders entering the country illegally,” sector Chief Patrol Agent Austin L. Skero II said in announcing those arrests. “I credit our agents and law enforcement partners for quickly identifying them and ensuring that they do not make it into our communities.”

In San Diego, last year’s record was shattered in the first six months of the fiscal year. The rate has only increased with the border surge under President Biden.

“This year, there has been an alarming uptrend in the apprehension of convicted sex offenders,” said Aaron Heitke, the chief patrol agent for that sector.

Mr. Judd, the Border Patrol union chief, said in past surges, some parts of the border would be slammed and other areas would remain relatively quiet.

Not this time.

“It’s everywhere now,” he said.

The uptick began last year but has reached crisis levels since the start of the new administration. Mr. Biden has called the surge part of the normal cycle, though migrants tell agents that they are coming to the U.S. now because they believe they will have a better chance of being allowed to stay.

For many, that’s true.

The Border Patrol made more than 170,000 arrests last month. However, a significant chunk of those were repeats: migrants who sneaked across the border were quickly returned under a coronavirus health emergency order and then tried again.

Subtract those recidivists, and perhaps only 125,000 to 140,000 unique individuals crossed. Of those, nearly 70,000 were caught and released.

The fact that so many are caught also signals that many more aren’t.

The number of gotaways, as the Border Patrol labels migrants it knows to have crossed but who weren’t apprehended at the border, has soared during the surge. There were about 40,600 last month alone. There is no telling how many may have been sex offenders, nor how many others came into the country without their entry being detected at all, meaning they don’t even show in the gotaway statistics.

While the Biden administration has curtailed deportations and arrests of illegal immigrants in the country’s interior, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said sex offenders remain a priority for ouster.

But Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, said at a hearing with Mr. Mayorkas last week that Immigration and Customs Enforcement told his staff that sexual offense cases aren’t automatic deportations. Instead, deportation officers must get approval from supervisors before arresting some sex offenders.

Mr. Mayorkas suggested his final deportation guidance, due in the coming weeks, will elevate those cases to automatic deportations.

“It is my view that individuals who commit sex offenses should be apprehended and removed,” Mr. Mayorkas said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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