After almost three years of meticulous, thorough negotiations, legislation to protect children from known child sexual predators seeking to travel abroad was cleared today by the House of Representatives.
The International Megan's Law, H.R. 5138, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), establishes a model framework for international law enforcement notifications when convicted child sex offenders pose a danger for children in a destination country.
"Child predators thrive on secrecy, a secrecy that allows them to commit heinous crimes against children with impunity and without any meaningful accountability," said Smith, a senior Republican and human rights leader on the Foreign Affairs Committee. "Megan's Law -- with its emphasis on notification -- must go global, to protect American children and children worldwide." Click here to read Congressman Smith's full statement on floor of House.
Smith said that the new International Megan's Law will work synergistically with America's anti-human trafficking laws, which Smith wrote and steered through Congress in 2000, 2003 and 2005. "Together with our anti-human trafficking laws, the International Megan's Law will work to ensure that we do more to protect children from the life long consequences of these heinous crimes--before they take place."
As approved by the House today, Smith's legislation contains several mutually reinforcing components to protect children from known child sex predators who may be looking to travel to commit more crimes. These provisions include:
* creating a mechanism for US officials to notify other countries when high risk Americans convicted of child sex crimes seek to travel;
* calling on other countries to notify our law enforcement when sex offenders seek to travel to the United States; and
* establishing registration requirements at US Embassies for US child sex offenders residing abroad so that U.S. diplomatic missions can notify U.S. law enforcement when a sex offender who is required to register enters or re-enters the United States.
(Click here for a section-by-section summary)
At today's floor debate on HR 5138, Smith noted that the legislation is named for Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old from his district in Hamilton, N.J. who was kidnapped, sexually abused, and brutally murdered in 1994. Megan's assailant was a convicted, repeat sex offender living across the street, unbeknownst to residents in the neighborhood. Due to the public outcry in response to the tragedy and the hard work by Megan's loving parents, Richard and Maureen Kanka, the New Jersey State Legislature passed the original Megan's Law (NJSA 2C: 7-1 through 7-II) to require public notification of convicted sex offenders living in the community. Smith announced the International Megan's Law bill alongside the Kankas in 2008.
"Our national and various state versions of Megan's Law have revolutionized how we deal with child predators," Smith said. "The Kankas wrote the book on neighborhood notification and protection of children and families through information. We all owe an enormous debt to Maureen and Richard for taking a horrific tragedy that is unbearable and turning it into the noble cause of protecting children in the U.S. and now internationally," Smith said.
Smith concluded his floor remarks by pointing out that "I personally have spoken to foreign officials and non-governmental representatives who have asked me when the United States Congress is going to do something about American sex offenders who are traveling to their countries to rape their children. International Megan's Law is the answer to that question."