RICHMOND, Va. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Virginia Department of State Police today announced the results of a law enforcement operation to remove 15 foreign nationals convicted of sex offenses from the Commonwealth of Virginia and Washington, D.C. The enforcement surge was led by ICE with support from Virginia State Police and local law enforcement agencies.
Over the last five days, more than 60 law enforcement officers from ICE, Virginia State Police, Bedford County Sheriff's Office and Roanoke City Police Department participated in Operation SOAR (Sexual Offender Alien Removal), a targeted enforcement operation to identify people convicted of sex offenses in the Commonwealth and D.C. to determine if they are subject to removal from the United States. The 15 aliens arrested during Operation SOAR had convictions for sexual offenses including sexual battery of child, aggravated sexual battery and carnal knowledge of a child (13-14 years old).
During this operation 356 foreign national sex offenders were located in federal, state or local facilities and will be processed for removal from the United States upon the completion of their incarceration.
"Operation SOAR builds on our ongoing efforts with the Commonwealth of Virginia to ensure that we're bringing to bear the full weight of our state and local partnerships. Through operations like SOAR, we will continue to target criminal aliens and remove them from our communities," said ICE Director John Morton. "We remain committed to tough, sensible enforcement. Together, we are improving the safety of communities throughout Virginia, and the entire nation."
In 2006, as attorney general, Governor Bob McDonnell worked with the general assembly to improve Virginia's Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry. The following year he requested that Virginia State Police check the birthplace of each individual on the Registry and ensure compliance with regulations and investigate violations. That information was shared with ICE. ICE agents then ran the list against two federal databases, which led to what was at the time called "Operation Cold Play." In 2008, then Attorney General McDonnell announced that through this operation, the Virginia State Police and ICE removed 171 convicted criminal alien sex offenders from Virginia.
Speaking about this year's operation, Governor McDonnell commented, "We are committed to keeping Virginians safe and secure. No criminal alien sex offenders should be allowed to remain in our communities. Operation SOAR has identified and removed more criminal alien sex offenders. It builds on the success of our first operation which removed 171 convicted criminal alien sex offenders from the Commonwealth in 2008. This initiative is another example of how multi-agency collaboration safeguards our communities. We will remain diligent and determined in using all available resources to advance public safety in Virginia."
"While Virginia has its disagreements with the federal government on certain issues, Operation SOAR and programs related to it - such as Secure Communities - have emerged from a strong federal-state collaborative effort. Virginia called on ICE for its help in apprehending and deporting criminal alien sex offenders to get them out of our communities, and we could not have done this critical law enforcement initiative without the agency," said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
The attorney general's office has served as the legal advisor to state government on issues related to the implementation of Operation SOAR, as well as Secure Communities, a program which now checks the immigration status of potential offenders the moment they are booked on criminal charges.
During Operation SOAR, fourteen men and one woman were arrested representing more than seven different nations, including countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia.
Some of those arrested during this operation include:
- A 40-year-old El Salvadoran national was arrested in Henrico County, Va., for administrative immigration violations. His previous criminal convictions include two counts of sexual battery of a minor. He is in ICE custody pending removal from the United States.
- A 31-year-old El Salvadoran national was arrested in Reston, Va., for immigration violations as well as a warrant from Virginia State Police for failing to register as a sex offender. His previous criminal conviction includes carnal knowledge of a child, 13 to 15 years old. He was turned over to the state police and, at the completion of any further criminal legal proceedings related to his failure to register, will be removed from the United States.
- A 40-year old Philippine national and lawful permanent resident was arrested in Virginia Beach, Va., for administrative immigration violations. His previous criminal conviction includes aggravated sexual battery. The victim of this crime was under the age of 13. He is in ICE custody and has been placed in removal proceedings.
This targeted enforcement action is a follow up to an operation ICE conducted with Virginia law enforcement officers from 2007-2008 known as Operation Cold Play. In that operation, hundreds of foreign national sex offenders were identified.
The foreign nationals apprehended during Operation SOAR will be processed administratively for removal from the United States. Those who have outstanding orders of deportation are subject to immediate removal from the country. Any alien with an outstanding warrant of arrest from a law enforcement agency has been turned over on the outstanding warrant for adjudication of their case. They will be transferred to ICE custody upon the resolution of their charges. The remaining aliens are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal in the near future.
This enforcement action was spearheaded by ICE's Fugitive Operations Program, which is responsible for locating, arresting and removing at large criminal aliens and immigration fugitives - aliens who have ignored final orders of deportation handed down by the nation's immigration courts.