President Obama today signed into law the Child Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6063), a bipartisan, bicameral bill authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to better protect children from sexual predators. Chairman Smith, along with other supporters of the bill, joined the President at a signing ceremony at the White House.
H.R. 6063 provides law enforcement officials with additional resources to combat the growing threat of child pornography and online exploitation of children. In August, the House passed the bill by voice vote. The Senate passed Smith's bill by unanimous consent last month with the help of Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
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.
"I introduced the Child Protection Act to combat crimes against our children. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent and today the President signed it into law. This bipartisan bill increases penalties for child pornography offenses that involve young children and strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims.
"At a time when Washington is known for partisanship, it is reassuring to see bipartisan legislation enacted. When it comes to protecting our children, there are no Republicans and no Democrats, only concerned citizens."
Background on the Child Protection Act: H.R. 6063 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.
Chairman Smith and Rep. Wasserman Schultz introduced the Child Protection Act in June. When he became Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2011, Chairman Smith named enacting legislation to better protect children from online predators as a top priority. H.R. 6063 is one of the most significant bipartisan bills to be enacted this year.