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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have arrested 302 illegal immigrant sex offenders since June, according to a new report.
The arrests come as part of an ongoing nationwide enforcement effort to arrest and deport illegal immigrants convicted of sex crimes, Fox News reported. ICE officers have been carrying out Operation SOAR (Sex Offender Arrest and Removal) since June 4.
The agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations Fugitive Operations Support Center has worked alongside its Law Enforcement Support Center to find illegal immigrants who are also registered as sex offenders.
The effort comes after the agency received new orders in February asking agents to focus on arresting recent border crossers, aggravated felons and those posing a threat to national security.
“Our officers have prioritized the arrest of noncitizens who pose the greatest threat to the security and safety of our communities,” acting ICE Director Tae Johnson said in a statement, according to Fox News. “By focusing our resources on those who have committed sex crimes and demonstrated predatory behavior, we reinforce our steadfast commitment to enhancing public safety across the United States.”
Earlier this month, Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) questioned Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Biden’s nominee to lead the agency, about a drop in ICE arrests in recent months.
Gonzalez told Hawley during his Senate confirmation hearing that, under his leadership, the agency would continue to train its focus on the biggest threats to American communities. He said it would be “aggressive” in doing so.
“In my experience I would like to see more data to see what other factors may have played into that to better understand the numbers,” he said. “It is concerning, so I would make sure, again, that if we’re being strategic and we’re prioritizing properly that we could go after those individuals that pose the greatest threat to our communities.”
“I think that’s reasonable and appropriate, but we would be aggressive in going after them,” he added.
The arrests come as numerous lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern over a major influx of migrants at the southern border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced earlier this month that Border Patrol agents arrested or turned away 188,829 migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in June — the highest monthly total in at least a decade, according to previously published data reviewed by CNN.