Public Law 114-119
International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advance Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders, H.R. 515 (International Megan's Law)
Prime Sponsor: Mr. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey
Signed by the President Feb. 8, 2016
SUMMARY AND MAIN PROVISIONS
International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advance Notification of Traveling Sex Offender, H.R. 515, is 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. Signed into law in 2016, the law capped 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.
The new law, like the domestic notifications laws before it, is named for Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old resident of Congressman 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.
International Megan's Law passed the House several times before being approved by Senate in December 2015. The House unanimously passed the final bill on Feb. 1, 2016 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 worked for passage over the next eight years. He introduced five more versions of the legislation, of which three passed the House but were stalled in the Senate until the most recent bill finally passed both chambers of Congress.
As enacted, International Megan’s Law:
•Streamlines and coordinates the work of the Angel Watch Center with the Sex Offender Targeting Center of the US Marshals Service so that the best information is getting to the right people in the shortest amount of time;
•Makes it a crime, for the first time, for a sex offender to travel abroad without giving 21 days advance notice so that law enforcement has adequate time to vet the traveler and warn the destination country, if needed;
•Mandates that the State Department, in consultation with the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, establish, within 90 days, a program for issuing a passport provision on a traveling sex offender with an offense against a child and current duty to register, thereby preventing circumvention of the notification system by travelers who misreport which countries they will visit;
•Requires federal agencies to properly collect notification response data to understand which countries are working with the U.S. on preventing re-offense by child predators;
•Provides the authority for both the Angel Watch Center and the US Marshals Service to receive information from other countries about pedophiles intending to travel to the U.S.;
•Clarifies the receipt and sharing within U.S. law enforcement of incoming notifications on known sex offenders traveling to the U.S., and;
•Directs the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security, to seek agreements and use technical assistance with other countries so that the United States is notified in advance of incoming foreign sex offenders.
The new International Megan’s Law will work in conjunction with America’s landmark anti-human trafficking law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 authored by Smith, and the two other trafficking laws he wrote in 2003 and 2005.
According to a 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office entitled “Current Situation Results in Thousands of Passports Issued to Registered Sex Offenders,” at least 4,500 U.S. passports were issued to registered sex offenders in fiscal year 2008. Typically a U.S. passport is valid for 10 years. The GAO emphasized that its numbers were probably understated due to the limitations of the data that it was able to access and analyze.
Estimates from the International Labor Organization indicate that 1.8 million children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation around the world every year.
Text of International Megan's Law Act.