President Signs Smith Bill into Law…International Megan’s Law Now Law of the Land
A law to protect children in the U.S. and around the world from convicted pedophiles who travel in or out of the United States unbeknownst to law enforcement officials was signed into law last night, capping an eight-year effort to enact international notification legislation that draws on current federal and state Megan’s Laws that require public notice when a sex offender moves into a U.S. neighborhood.
“This important legislation authorizes the creation of a comprehensive, reciprocal international notification system to significantly expand protections for children worldwide,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) who authored the new law commonly referred to as International Megan’s Law.
“Now foreign governments will know when convicted pedophiles who are currently required to be on government sex-offender registries, are traveling to other countries. Now they can assess the potential danger and take reasonable precautions to protect children including denial of a visa or limiting travel,” Smith said.
The new law, like the domestic notifications laws before it, is named for Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old resident of Smith’s home town of Hamilton, N.J., who was sexually assaulted and killed in 1994 by a convicted, repeat sex offender living across the street and unknown to the residents in the neighborhood. Public outcry in response to the terrible crime and tireless work by Megan’s parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, led to the New Jersey State Legislature passing the original Megan’s Law (NJSA 2C: 7-1 through 7-II) in 1994. The law required public notification of convicted sex offenders living in the community. Today all 50 states and all the territories have a Megan's Law, an important tool in preventing more children from becoming victims.
Richard Kanka said the bipartisan agreement notifying foreign law enforcement of traveling child predators is paramount for the safety of all children.
“The reason this legislation is so important is that it will provide law enforcement with the information needed to help prevent convicted sex offenders from moving secretly throughout this country and any other nation worldwide,” said Kanka. “Law-abiding citizens of this country did not create this problem. It was created by individuals who continue to terrorize our children and want to remain anonymous. When a sex offender has been convicted of violating a child, law enforcement and parents have a right to know where they are hiding. Revealing the secret status of convicted child predators is what Megan’s Law is all about. Removing the secrecy will prevent more children from becoming victims in the US and abroad by simply making the facts known.”
Officially named The International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advance Notification of Traveling Sex Offender, H.R. 515, passed the House several times before being approved by Senate in December. The House unanimously passed the final bill on Feb. 1 and sent it to the White House on Feb. 4 with the President signing it February 8, 2016.
Smith first introduced the International Megan’s Law bill alongside the Kankas in 2008 in Megan’s Place, the small community park that bears Megan’s name, and has worked for passage ever since. The final version that moved out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October was crafted in close partnership with Senator Richard Shelby (AL), who championed the innovative passport provisions, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Corker (TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (MD), and; Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD). Smith also acknowledged the strong support of Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA), who helped advance the final bill in the House, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel.
“Child sex-trafficking and tourism are a serious problem,” Smith said. “With the enactment of this law and the bipartisan hard work of so many lawmakers and advocacy groups, children in the U.S. and around the world will now have greater protections from roving child predators.”