New Jersey Strong Megan’s Law International Notification
Trenton, NJ: 11.17.2017 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.”
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).”
Washington, DC: 2.08.2107 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. (Mercer County), 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:
- Streamlines and coordinates the work of the Angel Watch Center with the Sex Offender Targeting Center of the US Marshals Service so that the best information is getting to the right people in the shortest amount of time;
- Makes it a crime, for the first time, for a sex offender to travel abroad without giving 21 days advance notice so that law enforcement has adequate time to vet the traveler and warn the destination country, if needed;
- Requires federal agencies to properly collect notification response data to understand which countries are working with the U.S. on preventing re-offense by child predators;
- Provides the authority for both the Angel Watch Center and the US Marshals Service to receive information from other countries about pedophiles intending to travel to the U.S.;
- Clarifies the receipt and sharing within U.S. law enforcement of incoming notifications on known sex offenders traveling to the U.S.; and
- Directs the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security, to seek agreements and use technical assistance with other countries so that the United States is notified in advance of incoming foreign 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.
Estimates from the International Labor Organization indicate that 1.8 million children are victims of commercial sexual exploitation around the world every year.