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OPINION

Immigration crackdown nets child molester living in Stone Mountain

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A convicted child molester who was residing in Stone Mountain was among 2,901 noncitizens with criminal records who were arrested this month during a nationwide crackdown called “Cross Check.”

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed this week that they had arrested Roberto Hackett-Baquie, 54, a national of Panama who was convicted of child molestation in March 2008.

ICE made arrests in all 50 states as part of the seven-day crackdown. Of those arrested, more than 1,600 had felony convictions, including manslaughter, kidnapping, armed robbery, drug trafficking and sexual crimes against minors. Forty-two were gang members. And 151 were convicted sex offenders.

Additionally, 681 were fugitives who had previously been ordered to leave the country but failed to do so. And 386 had been deported more than once.

ICE has mounted similar Cross Check operations in the past. The latest crackdown follows an announcement this summer from the Obama administration that it is tightening its focus on deporting violent criminals while giving special consideration to illegal immigrants who were brought here as young children and who are getting an education.

"The results of this targeted enforcement operation underscore ICE's ongoing commitment and focus on the arrest and removal of convicted criminal aliens and those that game our nation's immigration system," ICE Director John Morton said in a prepared statement.

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Georgia lawmakers have long complained that the federal government has not done enough to curb illegal immigration. And this summer state legislators did something about it, passing a tough law targeting the problem.

The Arizona-style measure included provisions that would empower police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects and make it illegal to transport or harbor illegal immigrants in Georgia.

But in June, a federal judge in Atlanta temporarily put those parts of the law on hold amid a court challenge by civil and immigrant rights groups. The state is appealing. Other parts of the law that are not tied up in the courts took effect July 1.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are 425,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia, the seventh-highest total among the states. As of July 31, there were 6,861 deportation cases pending in federal immigration courts in Georgia, U.S. Justice Department figures show. Nationwide, there were 289,033 pending cases as of that date.

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