***Protecting Children from Sexual Predators…***After 8 Years Int’l Megan’s Law Clears Congress
Eight years after Congressman Chris Smith (Hamilton, NJ) first introduced a bill to protect children in the U.S. and around the world from convicted pedophiles who travel in secret to or from the United States—currently below the radar of law enforcement officials—it is now on the verge of becoming law.
Smith (NJ-04), author of International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking, H.R. 515, announced that the House unanimously approved HR 515 today. “It will now be sent on to the White House to provide children at home and abroad with new protections against predators,” Smith said.
The legislation is named for Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old from Hamilton, N.J. in Smith’s district who was sexually assaulted and killed in 1994. Megan’s assailant was a convicted, repeat sex offender living across the street, unbeknownst to residents in the neighborhood. Due to public outcry in response to the tragedy and to hard work by Megan’s loving parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, the New Jersey State Legislature passed the original Megan’s Law (NJSA 2C: 7-1 through 7-II) in 1994 to require 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.
“While they still carry deep emotional and psychological scars, Maureen and Richard’s selflessness, love of others, and vision have protected countless children from harm,” Smith said. “Enactment of International Megan’s Law will expand meaningful child protection at home and around the world.” Click here to read Smith's floor remarks.
Passed by the House for the third time in early 2015, H.R. 515 establishes new tools and a framework for the U.S. to send and receive notifications on traveling sex offenders who have previously been convicted of serious sexual crimes against children. Additions to the bill in the Senate required the House to pass it one last time.
“It has taken many years to get the bill passed,” Smith said. “We received input from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the State Department, and colleagues in the Senate and House, painstakingly producing a carefully-crafted and well-designed law.”
“The Angel Watch Center will be authorized to send actionable information about child-sex offender travel to destination countries in time for those countries to assess the potential dangers—and respond appropriately, whether that is to deny entry or visa, monitor travel, or limit travel. Information is power, and in this case, a new level of protection,” said Smith.
Smith first introduced the International Megan’s Law bill alongside the Kankas in 2008, and has worked for passage ever since. The bill passed the House in 2010 and 2014, but was stalled in the Senate both times. The version that moved out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October was done in close partnership with Senator Richard Shelby (AL), 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.
Specifically, Smith’s legislation will:
Smith said, “International Megan’s law facilitates information sharing so that other countries notify American law enforcement officials of foreign predators coming into the United States. The goal is reciprocal notification to protect children at home and abroad from known 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 wrote in 2003 and 2005.