Smith’s Law Results in Important New Protections for Children Against Predators
A new passport identifier for convicted pedophiles will help protect children from pedophiles looking to travel abroad, possibly to abuse children, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of legislation to create the identifier.
A new passport identifier for convicted pedophiles will help protect children from pedophiles looking to travel abroad, possibly to abuse children, said Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of legislation to create the identifier.
“Child predators thrive on secrecy—a secrecy that allows them to commit heinous crimes against the weakest and most vulnerable,” Smith stated at a press conference on Friday in Trenton, N.J., about the passport protections included in his International Megan’s Law, which had several other provisions aimed at protecting children.
“We know from law enforcement and media documentation that Americans on U.S. sex offender registries are caught sexually abusing children in Asia, Central and South America, Europe—everywhere,” Smith said. “Again, we have a duty to protect the weakest and most vulnerable from abuse.” To read Smith’s full remarks, click here.
The new passport protections from the U.S. State Department were mandated by Smith’s International Megan’s Law, which passed the House three times before finally being enacted in February of 2016.
The law is named after Megan Kanka, a resident of Smith’s home town of Hamilton, N.J. who, at seven years old, was sexually assaulted and killed in 1994 by a repeat sex offender who was a neighbor, but whose offender status was unbeknownst to residents of the community.
Smith spoke alongside Megan’s family, who have been fighting for legal protections for children from predators at the state, federal, and international levels. “This is a big step in trying to protect the children of the country and the whole world,” Rich Kanka, father of Megan Kanka, stated on Friday.
“Megan was a wonderful little girl. She loved everybody,” Kanka said. Both he and Smith on Friday advocated for a version of Megan’s Law to be enacted in every country in the world. “We have to stop the trafficking and the exploitation. I am here and I am not going anywhere,” Kanka said.
Megan’s Law, originally passed in New Jersey, required public notification of convicted sex offenders living in an area. Now all 50 states have such laws protecting children against predators at home. International Megan’s Law was drafted to create a system of notification between countries so that foreign countries – as well as the U.S. – would know when a convicted sex offender is looking to enter their boundaries.
Child predators have tried to evade detection when traveling, by misreporting the countries they are traveling to in naming their transit countries rather than their destination countries, Smith said.
Now, as a result of Smith’s law, countries including the U.S. are being notified when convicted pedophiles seek to enter, and they are being turned back at the borders of the U.S. and these countries. The law empowers many of the destination countries for convicted pedophiles to turn them away or monitor them while they travel within their borders.
According to Smith, the U.S. has been alerted by foreign countries of at least 100 of their convicted pedophiles trying to enter the U.S. Almost 100 other countries have been warned by the U.S. of over 3,500 convicted pedophiles trying to enter, and almost 2,000 convicted pedophiles from the U.S. have been turned away from their destination country since the law’s enactment.
In addition to improving and speeding up this notification process, International Megan’s Law directed the State Department, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to set up an identification for passports of convicted pedophiles who are on states’ public offender registries, so that destination countries have another opportunity to screen pedophiles when they attempt to enter.
According to a 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office, at least 4,500 U.S. passports were issued to registered sex offenders in FY 2008. There were 797,094 registered sex offenders in the U.S., according to FBI numbers from September 30th, and almost 17,000 offenders in New Jersey, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Now, U.S. passports of convicted pedophiles who are on a state’s public sex offender registry will be stamped with the identifier: “The bearer was convicted of a sex offense against a minor and is a covered sex offender pursuant to 22 United States Code Section 212 (c)(I).”