The U.S. Senate has approved legislation authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to better protect children from sexual predators. The Child Protection Act (H.R. 6063) provides law enforcement officials with additional resources to combat the growing threat of child pornography and online exploitation of children. The House of Representatives passed the bill by voice vote in August. Monday night, the Senate approved the legislation by unanimous consent. The bill now goes to the President's desk for signature.
Chairman Smith: "Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing an average of 150% per year. According to recent estimates, there are as many as 100,000 fugitive sex offenders in the U.S. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that Texas has the second largest number of registered sex offenders nationwide. We must do more to protect the most innocent among us--our children.
"This bipartisan bill increases penalties for child pornography offenses that involve young children and strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims. The Child Protection Act ensures that paperwork does not stand in the way of the apprehension of dangerous criminals. I urge the President to sign this legislation and help better protect America's children from sexual predators."
Rep. Wasserman Schultz: "This bill ensures that the spread of child pornography online is addressed aggressively and quickly, and ensures that investigators have every available resource to track down predators and protect our children. With the input of law enforcement officials and child protection advocates, we crafted this bipartisan, common-sense legislation to help stop child exploitation. With President Obama's signature, this law will help to rescue the thousands of children suffering from unthinkable abuse."
Background on the Child Protection Act: The bill increases the maximum penalties from 10 to 20 years for child pornography offenses that involve prepubescent children or children under the age of 12. The bill allows a federal court to issue a protective order if it determines that a child victim or witness is being harassed or intimidated and imposes criminal penalties for violation of a protective order. It gives the U.S. Marshals limited subpoena authority to locate and apprehend fugitive sex offenders.
The Child Protection Act also reauthorizes for five years the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, a national network of investigators who have arrested more than 30,000 individuals involved in child exploitation since 1998.