Smith Introduces International Megan's Law
A bipartisan group of lawmakers have joined with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today in introducing legislation to protect children, worldwide, from sex offenders who seek to travel internationally to commit their heinous crimes.
"The International Megan's Law builds upon the original state and federal Megan's Law concept of notification and brings the program worldwide when a high risk sex offender decides to travel," said Smith who represents Hamilton Township where seven year old Megan Kanka was brutally murdered 15 years ago by a convicted sex offender who moved into her neighborhood.
"My bill promotes a notification system for foreign officials to alert American authorities when sex offenders apply to enter the US from other countries, and the bill will also require US notification to other countries when people convicted of child sex crimes in the US look to travel abroad," he said.
Smith, who is the author of the nation's first anti-trafficking law, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (PL 106-386) and its two subsequent reauthorizations (PL 108-193 & 109-164) to combat the horrific practice of human trafficking in which the victims are primarily women and young girls, said US leadership in protecting vulnerable populations cannot be overstated.
"I know firsthand the positive impact the U.S. can have in persuading other countries to take action to protect vulnerable populations within their own borders," he said. "Since the passage of my first Trafficking Victims Protection Act (PL 106-386), over 100 countries have implemented their own anti-trafficking laws and regulations to protect women and children within their own borders. The International Megan's Law is a continuation of the United States' leadership in promoting and implementing global programs that make it more difficult for sex offenders to seek out and prey on new victims."
Smith compared the sanctions in the new International Megan's Law bill to provisions in his anti-trafficking laws.
"The International Megan's Law includes strict penalties for non-compliance by sex offenders and the potential for a restriction on non-humanitarian aid against countries that fail to notify of travel by sex offenders residing within their borders" he said.
Smith said that there have been instances in which informal communications between international law enforcement officials have resulted in child sex offenders being prohibited from entering the United States when the traveler's destination included a child in a vulnerable situation. Countries where child sex tourism is rampant also have refused entry to convicted sex offenders when the destination country received prior notification. He added that these efforts were commendable but said they underscore the need for a formal system to systematically protect more vulnerable children.
"We simply cannot leave notification of travel of child sex offenders to random spot checks or ad hoc reviews," Smith said. "Instead, notification must be undertaken in a methodical, ongoing basis and must include information from all state registries."
Specifically, Smith's International Megan's Law will: Establish a system that provides notice to foreign government officials when a known sex offender in the United States who poses a risk of re-offending against children intends to travel to their country. Prohibit foreign nationals who have committed a sex offense from entering into the United States. Strongly encourage and provide assistance to foreign governments that do not currently have a system to identify and track child sex offenders to do so. Strongly encourage foreign governments to notify the US Government when a US citizen is arrested, convicted or imprisoned overseas for a sex offense against a minor in that country. Include strict penalties for non-compliance of the travel reporting requirement by sex offenders
The bill is named for Megan Nicole Kanka. On July 29, 1994, seven year old Megan Kanka, a Hamilton, NJ resident, was kidnapped, raped, and brutally murdered. The assailant, Jesse Timmendequas, was a repeated sex offender living across the street, unbeknownst to residents living in the neighborhood. Public outcry about the tragedy and hard work by the Maureen and Richard Kanka, Megan's parents, prompted the New Jersey State Legislature to pass the original Megan's Law (NJSA 2C: 7-1 through 7-11) to require public notification of convicted sex offenders living in the community. Federal legislation followed and was signed into law on May 17, 1996 (PL 104-145) and strengthened in 2006 (PL 109-248).
Smith has worked closely with the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation to continue to promote community notification laws and programs including a new program sponsored by the Foundation, Check Em Out. Through the Check Em Out program, the Foundation promotes and helps to fund backgrounds checks for municipal sports leagues' volunteer coaches.