Obama signs International Megan's Law



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?


I would have thought a convicted murderer registry is a better idea.


This is a good Law.

Predatory offenders need to be tracked for the safety of children.

For those opposed as the law seems not to discriminate based on the crime- I say to the sex offenders. . . . crimes have consequences.


The problem is that something as trivial as urinating in public can get you landed in the database for life. I understand the intention of these laws, but they can also be abused or misapplied.


I don’t know that urinating in public can get you on the sex abuse registry.

We have to protect children at all cost even if some need to lose their liberties to do so.


I agree about this aspect, they really need to revise this law altogether, there are some people that are not threats, that end up on this list, like young people who ‘sext’ images or like was mentioned above an 18 yo who has a 15-17 yo girlfriend…Are these people really dangerous sex predators…no.

However I believe when these people are convicted, there are 2 classifications, either 10 year or lifetime registration, so its likely sexting would land someone on the 10 yr list and the real dangerous people, they are on the lifetime list.

This is an important law, but it needs to be realistic too, plus I think when it comes to international travel, a violent felon of the non-sexual type is just as important, if not more, what country would want a convicted killer coming to visit? Plus, I would not like to have a neighbor that was a killer either, but no such database exists???


If you do it in the wrong place it can.

We have to protect children, yes; but we should protect them from actual predators. The way the law is written now, it’s too broad, and can be applied to several non-predatory behaviors.


Just when politicians have almost cottoned on to the idea that it’s not very helpful to assume all (or even most, properly treated) convicted criminals will automatically seek to re-offend (and that sex offenders are more likely than any other…that’s just patent nonsense), President Obama happily signs through a law like this.

Isn’t this basically just a Scarlet Letter? (Either way, it misses the point that most abuse of children takes place in a domestic environment, and not during a 10-day holiday in the Far East). I think its deeply morally questionable at best to hold a person’s crime against them long after they’ve paid their debt to society, especially if they can be judged as posing no further risk to anyone than any random member of a local law-abiding population.

Of course, I realise - no one wants to be portrayed (however incorrectly) as somehow in favour of sexual abuse, particularly in an election year. It’s unreasonable to expect people to stand up for sex offenders, but if we really want lots of constitutionally-dubious laws like this to work, then lawmakers could at the very least start by not diluting the category of the verifiably harmful by lumping into it truckloads of people who are neither career criminals nor career sex offenders. What’s the likelihood that measures like this actually stop “even one child” (to use a cliché) from being abused, on the one hand - and the likelihood that a group of convicted citizens who would pose far less risk of reoffending if they were not so ostracised in the first place, will be further cut off from the rest of the supposedly-civilised society they have been theoretically been judged safe to (re-)join?

While I of course applaud the underlying motivation, this is in every conceivable way an unremittingly stupid piece of legislation.


As a survivor, I have little sympathy for anyone on a registered sex offender list. Sorry. However, I have to question the teeth in this law. Systematically we cannot even properly screen the majority of outside visitors coming into our country; how is this going to work any better? So they have a marked passport; assuming someone notices, then what??

Further, as in my case, 30% of all perpetrators of child sex abuse are family members, not traveling predators. They live in your back yard. Assuming the child has the courage to accuse their uncle, father, brother, etc. the whole process may be swept away by the child’s fear of what will happen within their family if a member is convicted. The child once again becomes a victim and either cannot testify, or is not judged as credible. These perpetrators tend to walk. Also in these cases, the systems in place (foster care, DHS, etc) are so inept that this type of abuser rarely is tracked or even serves time.

I would like to see greater resources for children of family abuse, and I would also like to see the statistics in one year as to how many perpetrators this new international law actually tracked.

I guess something is better than nothing.


So, in effect, the sex offender registry is both a Scarlett Letter and a life sentence, from which there is no appeal and no parole.

It might be a good idea to re-read the book “No Crueler Tyrannies,” recounting numerous crimes of child abuse which never actually occurred, but for which innocent people were convicted and imprisoned.


That’s exactly my point. The SOR while certainly detailing relevant details of offenders who have no place in prison but about whom it might be wise to be aware - also is full of those who pose absolutely no risk of harming anyone (even assuming, as you raise the point, that they ever did in the first place).


The only purpose that sex offender registries serve is to make offenders pay for their crimes… and pay and pay and pay. A big problem with effective registries that’s already been mentioned is that the registries get watered down with people who are not a threat. You can end up on a registry and lumped together with a violent rapist if you’ve taken a nude photograph of yourself as a teen or if you’ve ever jokingly flashed anyone in public.


It is also fair to consider the millions of children who actually are sexually abused who NEVER come forward for fear imposed by the perpetrator. I would bet that number far outweighs those wrongly accused.


I actually agree with your statement. (surprise)
There should be someway of separating the two. It may add to credibility.


And you may be right. The number of wrongful convictions, however, is not negligible. And the justice system is designed to honor the idea of innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, zealous prosecutors have been known to obtain convictions of the innocent.


I agree, it seems the mindset of our justice system and society as a whole, is to ensure ‘once a criminal, always a criminal’, background checks done by almost every company today also adds to this problem, at my company we have to reject nearly 75% of applicants due to negative BG checks or drug test, it has really caused a big staffing problem.

What do they expect these people to do once they get out and have paid their debt to society? If they cannot get a decent job somewhere, of course they are going to find other ways to make money, the same goes for sex offenders, I cant think of ANY company that would be willing to hire someone with this type of conviction.

I think in the next 20 or so years, this is going to be a big issue, all these people who have had minor sex offenses, like sexting or dating a younger person are going to have a lot of problems due to that record.


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