On February 8, 2016, President Obama signed into law the “International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (H.R. 4573).” The bill requires the notification of foreign governments when a citizen of United States registered as a sex offender for sexual offense involving a minor is going to be traveling to their country.
A previous version of the bill had died in the Senate. In 2015, Representative Christopher Smith reintroduced in 2015 by Rep. Christopher H. Smith reintroduced the Bill bill. The new law requires sex offender passports to have a “unique identifier” to be placed on the passports of registrants convicted of sex offenses involving a minor. Law would also require covered offenders to notify law enforcement 21 days before traveling abroad. Critics have claimed violation of constitutional rights and note that the law would also cover those who were convicted as minors HR 515 passed both chambers of the 114th United States Congress in February 2, 2016 and was signed into a law by President Obama in February 08, 2016.
The United States Secretary of State would also be allowed to limit or place restrictions on the travel of convicted sex criminals. Finally, the bill would ask the President of the United States to work out reciprocal deals with other countries so that the United States would be informed when foreign sex criminals tried to travel to the United States.
The law has been subject to heavy criticism. First, the critics argue that the bill is a “solution in search of a problem” because the US Marshall’s service already provided this notice to other countries. The bill wold place a heavy tax on families with relatives who live abroad.
California Reform Sex Offenders’s Law (a California organization) has filed suit challenging this law in the Northern District of California. Doe v. Kerry, Case 3:16-cv-00654 (N.D. Ca.). The key challenges are:
- The IML violates the First Amendment forcing people convicted of sex offenses to bear the equivalent of a “proverbial Scarlet Letter” on their passports. The First Amendment limits what the government can compel people to divulge;
- The IML places new burdens on the rights and protected liberty interests of covered individuals, including the right to international travel, the right to associate with family, economic liberty, and equal protection. Additionally, the law stigmatizes covered individuals in a manner that substantially infringes on their protected liberty interests by communicating that Covered Individuals pose a current risk to public safety because they are engaged in, or at risk of engaging in, international child sex trafficking.
The suit points out that the breadth of the statute is far more significant than its sponsor’s portray. It may juveniles, juvenile sexting, individuals with expunged convictions and more. For more on the litigation, click here.