International Megan’s Law: One Year Later
One year to the date of its enactment, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) reports that the International Megan’s Law is already having the intended effect of reducing the threat of child sex tourism.
Smith, who authored the bill, met today with a delegation from Thailand who expressed deep gratitude for the enactment of the law. During the meeting, Ambassador Pisan Manawapat, joined by representatives from the Royal Thai Police force, indicated that in Thailand alone, over 160 convicted sex offenders were caught trying to enter the country. Worldwide reports indicate that 1,780 notifications of pedophile travel have been sent by 64 countries, with a particular emphasis on countries known to be primary destinations for child sex tourism.
“This important legislation allows governments, in the U.S. and around the globe, to know when convicted pedophiles on sex-offender registries are traveling to other countries,” said Smith. “Information is power and the interest of protecting children remains at the core of both federal and state Megan’s Laws.”
Smith noted that while much has been done; new sections of the law are still being implemented, further increasing the protections offered by this law. International Megan’s Law mandates that the State Department, in consultation with the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, establish a program for issuing a passport provision on a traveling sex offender with an offence against a child, preventing circumvention of the notification system by travelers who misreport which countries they visit. The State Department along with the Department of Homeland Security are coordinating to increasingly implement this provision, and full implementation of this system is expected within the next few months.
According to a 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) 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. The GAO emphasized that its numbers were probably understated due to the limitations of the data that it was able to access and analyze. Due to International Megan’s Law, destination countries will no longer be caught unaware by sex offenders who may be traveling for nefarious reasons.
“The first year of International Megan’s Law has shown just how critical this legislation is for the protection of children here and abroad,” said Smith, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Child predators thrive on secrecy, a veil allowing them to commit atrocious crimes against children. While the sections of the law that have been put into force so far have made an immeasurable difference in the lives of children across the planet, we must ensure that the rest of this law is implemented without any further delay.”
The 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.
In addition to the protections added to passports, International Megan’s Law:
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.