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130 immigrants with criminal records arrested in Virginia, agency says

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
  • Most, but not all, of those arrested are in the country illegally, officials say
  • Past convictions include rape, assault and burglary, officials say
  • The arrests are made in a dozen northern Virginia counties

Washington (CNN) -- In a three-day law enforcement sweep in Northern Virginia, immigration authorities arrested 130 foreign nationals with criminal records, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced Wednesday.

"If you're committing crimes here in our communities and you're here unlawfully, it's time for you to go home," said the agency's director, John Morton. He said 76 of the 130 arrested had multiple criminal convictions and 10 of them had previously been deported and returned illegally to the United States.

The majority of those arrested in the latest edition of what the agency calls Operation Cross Check are illegal immigrants, Morton said. But some were here legally, he said, although he could not provide a specific number. Morton indicated their legal status could be in jeopardy depending on the seriousness of their crimes.

A news release issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement said at least four legal residents were among those arrested, and it listed past convictions for such crimes as sexual assault, grand larceny and abuse and neglect of children.

According to agency officials, the people caught in the sweep, which ended Tuesday, have past convictions for rape, assault, burglary, drug possession and other crimes. Eight fugitives also were arrested during the roundup, as well as 21 people who do not have criminal convictions but are in the United States illegally.

The arrests were made in a dozen Northern Virginia counties, including Prince William, where the issue of criminal illegal immigrants has been the focus of much attention. A Bolivian immigrant in the country illegally has been charged with killing a nun while driving drunk last year. The man had two prior arrests for driving under the influence and was facing removal proceedings. However, immigration authorities did not keep him in custody because he was not considered a flight risk.

Morton said the controversy was not a factor in having Operation Cross Check include Prince William County. He said Prince William isn't "the only county in the country in which immigration is an important local issue. It's a challenging issue nationally; people have strong feelings on both sides of the issue."

The director said his agency is paying serious attention to DUI offenses but focuses its resources on the most serious offenders, such as alleged murderers and rapists. "But we're all about trying to identify and remove everyone who is committing crime and here unlawfully," Morton said.

In addition to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, Operation Cross Check included officers from the U.S. Marshal Service and state and local police. The officers would cross-check with various agencies -- including parole offices -- as they sought suspects.