Border Patrol agents in Texas' Rio Grande Valley are reporting a spike in the number of sex offenders coming into the United States, with 144 captured in that area within the last five months.
Last year, during the same time period, 93 offenders tried to get into the country, officials report.
Federal agents aren't saying why more sex offenders are trying to enter the country, reports ABC affiliate KRGV
, but it's believed that many want to come into the United States to avoid prosecution in their own home countries.
In February alone, seven sex offenders were captured near McAllen, Harlingen, Falfurrias and Kingsville, and less than a week after that, two more were captured. And just two days ago, the television station reports, two more were also captured.
Agents said often, the sex offenders try to blend in with larger groups of other illegal immigrants to enter the country. Border Patrol agents, though, now use software that allows them to search criminal databases and identify offenders through fingerprints and retina and facial recognition scanning.
Earlier this month, immigration officials arrested 2,059 immigrants who were also convicted criminals during a five-day nationwide sweep, reports The New York Times
. Those arrested included more than 1,000 felons, including 89 sex offenders and 58 members of gangs.
The operation, conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, also netted 476 criminals who had been deported and made their way back into the United States. Obama administration officials said 163 of those people will face felony charges for returning illegally.
Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said the operation focused on deporting people who pose serious threats to public or national safety.
Overall, those arrested came from 94 countries, and many had been convicted of crimes including rape, distribution of child pornography, and manslaughter. Some had convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and immigration advocates asked for leniency in those cases, but officials said such drivers are also a significant public safety threat.
Capture doesn't mean sex offenders and other criminals won't be released. DHS reports last year showed that in 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials released 68,000 illegal immigrants with criminal convictions, according to The Hill
An internal DHS document showed ICE agents had encountered 193,357 immigrants with criminal records, but only charged 125,478 of them, allowing the others to be released, numbers that Republicans opposing Obama's executive order for amnesty have cited when arguing against his measures.
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