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Public Statements

International Megan's Law of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise as a strong and proud original cosponsor of H.R. 5138, the International Megan's Law of 2010.

The innocence of childhood is a sacred trust that deserves to be protected always and everywhere. Sexual crimes against children are especially deplorable because they violate that trust, rob children of their childhoods and, in some cases, begin a cycle of abuse that ruins multiple lives by turning victims into future abusers.

In recent decades, Mr. Speaker, we have grown in our understanding of these crimes and of the compulsions of their perpetrators, so our laws have also evolved to better protect the young. In most cases, convicted offenders who pose risks to children are required to register in the localities in which they reside.

Just 2 months ago, my home State of Florida enacted additional safeguards, barring predators from loitering near schools and other places where children congregate. But right now, such protections do not effectively extend beyond national borders, and so an alarming number of child predators use the anonymity that comes with international travel to help them find new victims.

Far away from the jurisdictions in which their crimes are known, these offenders enter unsuspecting communities to groom and exploit young boys and girls. This heartbreaking pattern occurs all around the world. It can involve something as simple as illicit travel to a known sex tourism destination, such as Cuba, where that brutal regime remains classified by our State Department as a tier 3 entity that fails to meet even the minimum standards for combating human trafficking. Or it can entail a ruse as sophisticated as establishing a front charity or an orphanage in economically depressed areas, such as southeast Asia, to secure ready access to vulnerable children.

These criminals are ruthless in their hunt for new victims, but as things stand today, no country, including the United States, receives adequate warning when dangerous child predators are coming to visit. Thus, many crimes remain undeterred and undetected, and many young lives are permanently scarred as a result. The International Megan's Law will help protect the children of the world from these dangers in two major ways:

First, it will establish a system for providing advance notice to officials when a sex offender who poses a high risk to children is traveling to their country.

Second, it will require U.S. child sex offenders who live overseas to register and periodically reverify their presence with local U.S. diplomatic or consular missions.

This bill also grants the State Department clear authority to restrict the passports of convicted child sex offenders so that they cannot jump from country to country indefinitely to avoid returning to the U.S.

While the bill is simple in its basic concept, it provides a carefully constructed mechanism to ensure that the full range of operational, legal, and constitutional interests are protected.

I want to thank my colleague from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) for his leadership on this bill, which is the culmination of years of research, field visits and consultations with U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials.

Child predators do not become less dangerous when they cross international borders. They must not be allowed to use their passports as a disguise.

I urge my colleagues to support this basic protection of our children.

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