On Tuesday, the House of Representatives sent convicted sex offenders UNpacking by passing a bill that would give Megan's Law an international scope and enforce strict regulations on sex-offender travel across U.S. borders. Back in February, this bill was still a gleam in daddy's eye. Now it's quickly making its journey into the world, quite literally. Covenant House, an organization caring for nearly 70,000 homeless youth, many victims of sex trafficking, is among those credited for championing the bill, petitioning Congress with over 30,000 signers, along with Representatives Chris Smith and Dan Lungren. The bill's next stop is the Senate, where it is expected to pass posthaste. (Read the bill in it's entirety here.)
In a statement on his website, Lungren reflected that with effective domestic enforcement of Megan's Law, sex offenders head overseas to commit their crimes instead. But now Lungren believes that will change, saying, 'The bill we passed today, H.R. 5138, will bring us one step closer to stopping these predators before they do unspeakable, irreparable damage to children.'
Not everyone agrees the bill should fly, least surprisingly, convicted sex offenders. There are blogs and online communities where offenders descry the bill as a violation of their human rights and basic American freedoms. Upset offenders claim they'll be unable to leave the country or legally expatriate to 'get a fresh start' somewhere else because the bill gives the Secretary of State the right to rescind the passports of anyone awaiting trial for a sex offense against a minor or a permanent resident of the U.S. who has been convicted of that offense. But not every sex offense is against a minor so not every offender risks losing their passport. Besides, if you destroy the life of a child by sexually exploiting them, maybe it's fair that you, too, should have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life.
My favorite argument is that Americans who are afraid of sex offenders in their communities will be forced to live with them indefinitely if offenders can't travel freely to other countries. In other words, hey folks, wouldn't you like to dump us on unsuspecting communities on the other side of the world so we can violate their children instead of yours? No, actually. We would like you to be unable to harm any child, ever, and expect you to abide by the laws of general human decency, as well as those of the state, or face the consequences.
The only argument against the bill that makes me question it, and then only its language versus its intent, is that it violates Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 'Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.' Does this bill violate that right if it takes away the passports of those who were convicted of a sex offense against a minor if they served their time and were deemed unlikely to reoffend? Otherwise, I don't see how notifying other countries that a person who has committed a sex crime is heading their way keeps that person from leaving their country. It makes it more difficult, but only just.
Chris Smith put it best when he said, 'Child predators thrive on secrecy, a secrecy that allows them to commit heinous crimes against children with impunity and without any meaningful accountability.' International Megan's Law will take that dirty laundry, those heinous secrets, out of their suitcases, airing them to the proper authorities. Most of the world is okay with that.
Photo By: Michael (mx5tx) "