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Nearly 50 Sex Offenders Arrested in Statewide ICE Sting

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DALLAS (AP) — An operation to remove sex offenders or people from other countries with felony convictions has led to the arrest of 50 immigrants across Texas, federal authorities said Thursday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas said in a news release that the arrests included 40 men convicted of sex crimes including aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual battery of a minor. Others were convicted of offenses ranging from alien smuggling and evading arrest to possessing marijuana and aggravated robbery.

The 50 men arrested were a mix of legal and illegal immigrants, and about half were from North Texas, ICE said. Their names were not immediately released. The statewide operation ran for five days, ending Wednesday.

ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok told The Associated Press that the men are being held at different jails throughout the state.

Eleven of them have been deported before and illegally re-entered the U.S., Rusnok said. Others were released from prison after serving their sentences but their legal statuses weren’t immediately identified, he said, while some might have been detained without local law enforcement contacting immigration authorities.

Rusnok said ICE’s Secure Communities program was among changes made to identify immigrants charged with crimes. Secure Communities allows local law enforcement to run someone’s fingerprints after an arrest to check immigration status. The program has drawn criticism from some immigrant rights groups.

Legal immigrants can be removed from the country if they are found guilty of certain serious crimes.

Simona Flores, field office director for ICE’s enforcement and removal operations division, told the AP that ICE wanted to ensure immigrants convicted of felonies were identified for removal from the country as early as possible.

“Our goal is to identify them before they are released, whether it’s from local custody or coming out of federal prison,” she said.

Flores said she was reaching out to other federal and local law enforcement on ways to work together.

“We are focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement,” she said. “Specifically, we’re targeting serious criminal aliens.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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