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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Mike Garcia
DHS Assistant Secretary

July 8, 2004

Mike Garcia

Hi, this is Mike Garcia. I'm happy to join you on "Ask The White House."
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of ICE's Operation Predator, which we launched with Homeland Security Secretary Ridge to protect young people from predatory criminals. I'm looking forward to talking with you about this successful program, as well as other issues related to homeland security.

Jack, from California writes:
Why is the Department of Homeland Security involved in identifying child predators? I would think this would be for the Jusice Department or coordinating state law enforcement through the FBI.

Mike Garcia
A number of reasons: first, fighting child pornography, arresting human traffickers, deporting criminal aliens and arresting sex tourist who prey on children overseas were all traditional missions of the INS and the Customs Service prior to the Homeland Security merger. We are obligated by law to continue with those traditional missions: we have unique authorities in this area and we will continue to use them aggressively to protect America's children. In addition, restoring integrity to our immigration system (through deportation of criminal aliens) and policing the cyber border (and uncovering child pornography in the process) ARE homeland security issues. Traffickers in human beings, whether children or adults, pose a border security risk. Those same criminals who move children or those seeking economic opportunity across our borders could, for the right price, move terrorists or others seeking to harm our security. We prioritize our enforcement efforts in these areas -- where better to start than with those who prey on our children.

Allison, from Burlington writes:
I read the fact sheet that said on the topic of foreign predators that "to date, more than 450 of these predators have been deported." That's good news if the laws overseas are tough enough. Are they?

Mike Garcia
These are convicted felons, convicted of crimes against children here in the United States. At ICE, we make sure they do not return to the community -- they are detained and deported after they have served their time. We coordinate with foreign governments to advise them that these predators will be returning to their countries.

Ryan, from Grants Pass, Oregon writes:
How many criminals have been arrested as a result of Operation Predator?

Mike Garcia
In the past year, we have taken enforcement action against 3200 predators who have committed crimes against children. Some are deported and some face criminal prosecution in the United States.

Tim, from Dallas writes:
What is the National Child Victim Identification System ?

Mike Garcia
ICE working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as other federal and local law enforcement agencies seeks to identify children who are victims of abuse through the examination of child pornography images. This has two purposes: first to rescue children from abusive situations; and second to assist in prosecutions by negating the potential defense that the image is fabricated, that is, that it does not depict an actual child. To date, through this system, more than 1200 children have been identified in pornographic images. Additional information is available on NMECs web site at

troy, from orange county writes:
Mike Intentions are good, but how can you stop trafficking of humans? I'm from Southern California and according to the LA Times, "an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year in an enterprise that generates an estimated $9.5 billion in profits for criminal organizations worldwide."

When there is this much money at stake, how can we stop it?

How sad it our society?

Mike Garcia
You are right -- this is a terrible problem. One new tool ICE is employing, very effectively, is to go after those profits and deny these criminals any financial gain. This has been one of the tremendous advantages of combining immigration and customs authorities as a result of creating ICE in the Department of Homeland Security: agents investigating smuggling and trafficking now have access to the former Customs Services' very advanced financial crimes division. In Phoenix, in a pilot program that goes after the money smugglers make, we have seized millions of dollars since last October from bank accounts and other assets. We also approach this as organized crime as well and use the traditional law enforcement tools to dismantle such organizations. But your point is right on: we have to go after the money as part of any effort to take down criminals who would traffic in human beings. For more information about our pilot project in Arizona, called "Ice Storm," see our website

Denny, from Stone Mountain writes:
I'm glad we are making progress in this area, but the fact is that child-sex tourism penalties are not enough. Here in Georgia, a doctor was arrested after traveling to Russia to commit child sex offenses. But the penalty, according to the newspaper, is a minimum five-year sentence for child pornography or a 15-year minimum if the perpetrator has already been convicted of a sex crime.

These penalties aren't tough enough.

Mike Garcia
Child sex tourism is one of the priorities of Operation Predator. In fact, under Operation Predator, ICE has brought the first six cases under the PROTECT Act -- cases against American citizens who travel abroad to abuse children confident that they could return to this country without facing any consequences. They were wrong. The case you mention was one of those ICE Predator investigations. There are separate penalties for child pornography -- possessing images of children being abused -- and for engaging in child sex tourism. For example, a 70 year old man in Seattle was recently sentenced to 7 plus years for child sex tourism. These cases are a beginning and send a message that this abhorrent conduct will have consequences here in the United States.

Traci, from Atlanta writes:
Which countries have been the most helpful with ICE? Do you find that there is a worldwide revulsion to this crime? You always hear about Thailand being more permissive to this behavior -- but do you feel that attitude is changing?

Mike Garcia
ICE has worked with many countries in this area. Two terrific examples of overseas cooperation involve Mexico and Cambodia. In Mexico, joint efforts helped shut down a Mexican "resort" that catered to pedophiles from the United States. In Cambodia, joint efforts with local law enforcement has led to bringing three child sex tourism cases here in the United States. There is much work to be done; in a number of cases local officials lack training and resources to pursue these criminals. At ICE, we are trying to assist in this area.

Ken, from Ft Lauderdale writes:
Actually there is a case in Florida which is very well known. Spanky the Clown is from Jacksonville and recently was arrested and charged with many counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Do you think the only deterrent to committing such crimes is fear? If they know there is a big penalty to face, perhaps they won't commit the crime? Or do these people think that far ahead?

Mike Garcia
Law enforcement is certainly a deterrent in this area. I will give you an example: in one case under Predator, ICE traced credit card transactions for websites that provided images of child pornography. We then traced those credit cards to the users. There were thousands of transactions. We have arrested more than one hundred predators in this one case as a result of those leads, prioritizing predators in positions of trust or with access to children such as teachers, pediatricians, or child entertainers. The message? Child sex predators who thought that they could operate in the anonymity of cyberspace will be traced, identified, and brought to justice.

Linda, from Tampa BAy writes:
As a psychologist, I am familiar with the dreadful statistic that 25 percent of "child sex tourists" are from the United States.

Knowing this horrendous fact, what honestly can be done to:

1. Catch these pathetic monsters. 2. Reverse the trend.

Mike Garcia
Under Operation Predator, ICE has brought the first six cases under the new PROTECT ACT, a law aimed at bringing to justice people in this country who travel abroad to abuse children. In the past, these predators believed they could avoid prosecution. In the first sentencing to take place, a 70 year old man in Seattle was sentenced to 7 years in prison for child sex tourism. We continue to aggressively pursue child sex tourists using this new enforcement tool In terms of reversing the trend, ICE is involved, along with World Vision, in a public awareness campaign aimed at educating people on the law and the consequences of violating that law.

Jennifer, from Boston writes:
I was surprised and pleased to see that sex offenders' names and addresses are available online. What is the statue of limitations, however? If they are "good" for say, 7 years, then do they fall off the list? I would just prefer them being executed, myself.

Mike Garcia
Each local jurisdiction has rules and regulations regarding the duration that such information is to be provided. There is no federal law governing this issue.

Chris, from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA writes:
Just curious, but how many child predators have you guys caught since the program originated?

Mike Garcia

Mike Garcia
Our time passed quickly. It has been great to field your questions. I appreciate your taking the time to talk with me. I look forward to another interesting exchange soon. And one final thought -- remember that you can help our efforts by reporting suspicious activity via the ICE Hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or via email at For additional information, you can also visit the website at

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