FIRST ON FOX: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested more than 300 illegal immigrant sex offenders since June as part of an ongoing nationwide enforcement effort to arrest and deport those convicted of sex crimes.
ICE officers arrested 302 sex offenders since June 4 as part of Operation SOAR (Sex Offender Arrest and Removal) – an ongoing enforcement operation launched by the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
The operation involves ERO's Fugitive Operations Support Center (FOSC) collaborating with its Law Enforcement Support Center to identify criminal illegal immigrants who are also registered as sex offenders. It seeks not only to arrest them, but also to remove them from the country.
ICE has seen its enforcement priorities narrowed by new guidance issued in February, with current guidelines focusing agents on arresting recent border crossers, aggravated felons and those posing a threat to national security.
While critics have claimed the guidance hinders the agency from apprehending some illegal immigrants, ICE’s acting director has said the rules allow the agency to focus its limited resources on nabbing the most dangerous threats to the country.
"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.
"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," he said.
President Biden’s nominee to head the agency in a non-acting capacity, Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, faced questioning over the guidance at his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., quizzed Gonzalez about the reduction in ICE arrests in recent months.
Gonzalez said the agency, under his leadership, would continue to focus its resources on the biggest threats to American communities, and 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 said.