Obama signs International Megan’s Law
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday signed legislation named for a Hamilton girl that’s designed to alert foreign governments when registered sex offenders travel abroad.The International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and cleared by Congress last week.
The bill was named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old from Hamilton in Smith’s district who was sexually assaulted and killed in 1994 by convicted sex offender who lived across the street. The original Megan’s Law passed by the New Jersey legislature to require public notice when a sex offender moved into a neighborhood.
Under the new law, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are to inform foreign governments when registered sex offenders are visiting their countries, and to receive information when they come to the U.S. from abroad. In addition, passports issued to registered sex offenders will contain an identifying mark.
A 2010 Government Accountability Office report said that at least 4,500 U.S. passports went to registered sex offenders in fiscal year 2008. In addition, it seeks to have the U.S. informed when convicted sex offenders from overseas travel to this country.
There are some problems with this law. It doesn’t discriminate between types of sex offenses. There are lots of ways to get on the registry that don’t involve children or trafficking and it doesn’t take into account the amount of time since your last offense, e.g., you were convicted of statutory rape at age 21 for sleeping with a 15 y.o. but haven’t broken the law since.
My other question is why just a sex offender registry? Why not a violent felon registry?