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Child Exploitation
05/05/2011

ICE and Puerto Rico Department of Education join forces against child exploitation

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) announced Wednesday the addition of Internet safety to the curriculum of all public schools in Puerto Rico and the initiative "Navega Protegido," where students who have received Internet safety orientations by ICE HSI agents, more than 1500 so far, will be able to share that knowledge with other students across the island.

The addition of Internet Safety to the curriculum of Puerto Rico's public school system, as well as the "Navega Protegido" initiative stemmed from a recommendation by ICE HSI in San Juan to the Puerto Rico Secretary of Education, Jesus Rivera Sanchez, due to the dramatic increase of child exploitation cases investigated by ICE HSI in Puerto Rico.

The announcement was made Wednesday during an Internet safety orientation by ICE HSI special agents to more than 300 students followed by a press conference at the School of Visual Arts in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

"We are extremely pleased and excited to have formed this allegiance with the Puerto Rico Department of Education," said Roberto Escobar-Vargas, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Puerto Rico. "For several years now, since the inception of Operation Predator in July 2003, ICE HSI agents in San Juan have provided Internet safety orientations to students and parents of the Puerto Rico public and private school systems in an effort to create an awareness of the dangers of the unsupervised use of Internet by our children.

Initiatives like this are clear proof of ICE's HSI commitment to not only identify and arrest child predators, but to educate our children to prevent them from becoming victims of these unscrupulous criminals."

ICE places a high priority on enforcing laws against child pornography, sexual exploitation, child sex tourism and other crimes against children. Under Operation Predator, the agency's flagship initiative targeting child sex predators, ICE has made more than 12,600 arrests since 2003.

Each year, millions of children fall prey to sexual predators. Experts estimate that one-in-five girls and one-in-10 boys in the United States will be sexually exploited before they reach adulthood. These young victims are left with permanent psychological, physical and emotional scars. Operation Predator identifies, investigates and arrests child pornographers, child sex tourists and facilitators, human smugglers and traffickers of minors, criminal aliens convicted of offenses against minors, and those deported for child exploitation offenses who have returned illegally. Operation Predator draws on ICE's unique investigative and enforcement authorities to safeguard children. Coordinated nationally and internationally, this initiative brings together an array of ICE disciplines and resources to target these child sex abusers.

As part of the effort:

  • ICE has created a National Child Victim Identification System (NCVIS) in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Justice, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces and other agencies.
  • ICE agents stationed internationally work with foreign governments, INTERPOL and others to enhance coordination and cooperation on crimes that cross borders.
  • ICE is a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, joining law enforcement agencies around the world to fight child exploitation information and images that travel over the Internet.