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Friday, February 27, 2015

Chrysanthi Leon: HR515 Federal International Megan’s Law is Misguided Legislation That Won’t Protect Children

 
The below editorial is written by Chrysanthi Leon she is associate professor of sociology and criminal justice and women and gender studies at the University of Delaware and author of Sex Fiends, Perverts, and Pedophiles: Understanding Sex Crime Policy in America a great book that I read in 2011. 

HR515, the 2015 version of The International Megan’s Law (IML) is sponsored (as always) by New Jersey Representative Christopher Smith. It was introduced on January 22, 2015 and passed the U.S. House (Congress) on January 26, 2015 with a voice-vote, so there is NO record of who voted yes or no. No surprise it was fast-tracked through the House as the 2013/2014 version did pass the House. 

Ms. Leon references Senator Chris Coons (Delaware) in her editorial of HR515 because he is her U.S. Representative in Congress. 
 

I have the GovTrack widget for HR515 on the right side of the screen along with other bills pending in Washington D.C. but I have not posted about it in 2015 because I was swamped with the 2015 Virginia General Assembly for the last 5 weeks, which is my first priority. 

2015’s HR515 has 15 Co-Sponsors as of today including Virginia Freshman Representative Barbara Comstock.
I’ve posted about the Chris Smith’s “IML” bills before here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.   

No two pieces of legislation were ever the same.
  • In 2008 it was HR5722, it failed to move forward.
  • In 2009 it was HR1623, it failed to move forward.
  • In 2010 it was HR5138, it failed to move forward.
  • Also in 2010 there was Representative Ted Poe’s bill HR5870 blatantly titled; To restrict passports of certain sex offenders, and for other purposes. It failed to move forward.
  • In 2011 there was HR3253 plus TWO “Trafficking” Bills with passport restrictions for RSO’s HR2830 AND HR3589, they all failed to move forward.
  • In 2013 AND into 2014 it was HR898-Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 included a Registered Sex Offender passport restrict/revoke mandate. 
I.      The content of HR898 was approved by the Senate and House as an amendment to S. 47, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 
II.   AND the content of HR898 was added as an amendment into HR2848 Department of State Operations and Embassy Security Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2014 which passed the House on September 29, 2013 but was never passed by the U.S. Senate.
  • In 2014 it was HR4573 To protect children from exploitation, especially sex trafficking in tourism, by providing advance notice of intended travel.
I.      It directed the Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish within the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security a Center, to be known as the Angel Watch Center. The Center shall be headed by the Director of ICE, in collaboration with the Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and in consultation with the Attorney General.
II.     It was introduced on May 6, 2014 and it passed by the House on May 20, 2014, fast tracked.
III.   HR4573 was referred to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on December 11, 2014.On the SAME day (December 11th)…..from the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/business-meeting-12-11-14 HR4573 was reported by Senator Menendez without amendment AND without written report http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/HR%204573%20As%20Reported.pdf
IV.   HR4573 was never passed by the U.S. Senate.
  • In 2015 it is HR515 International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking
I.      It directs the Secretary of Homeland Security shall establish within the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security a Center, to be known as the Angel Watch Center. The Center shall be headed by the Director of ICE, in collaboration with the Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and in consultation with the Attorney General.
II.    It was introduced on January 22, 2015 and passed the U.S. House on January 26, 2015 with a voice-vote, so there is NO record of who voted yes or no, another fast track.
III.   HR515 would apply to the International travel of any RSO who was convicted of the following
                (A) In general
1.      The term child-sex offense means a specified offense against a minor, as defined in paragraph (7) of section 111 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (42 U.S.C. 16911), including—
2.      an offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving kidnapping;
3.      an offense (unless committed by a parent or guardian) involving false imprisonment;
4.      solicitation to engage in sexual conduct;
5.       use in a sexual performance;
6.      solicitation to practice prostitution;
7.       video voyeurism as described in section 1801 of title 18, United States Code;
8.      possession, production, or distribution of child pornography;
9.      criminal sexual conduct involving a minor, or the use of the Internet to facilitate or attempt such conduct; and
10.   any conduct that by its nature is a sex offense against a minor.
                (B) Other offenses
11.    The term child-sex offense includes a sex offense described in paragraph (5)(A) of section 111 of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 that is a specified offense against a minor, as defined in paragraph (7) of such section.
IV.   The 2015 version does have a clause to give notice to the RSO but it still wouldn't prevent them from traveling to their destination, finding out they are being denied entry and being turned back (wasting all that money and time) plus the humiliation, harassment and their "traveling party" having to decide on-the-spot to continue on to the destination or go back with the RSO.
                (2) To offenders
                (A) General notification
                (i) In general
If the Center transmits notice under paragraph (1) of impending international travel of a child-sex offender to the country or countries of destination of the child-sex offender, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with any appropriate agency, shall make reasonable efforts to provide constructive notice through electronic or telephonic communication to the child-sex offender prior to the child-sex offender’s arrival in the country or countries.
                (ii) Exception
The requirement to provide constructive notice under clause (i) shall not apply in the case of impending international travel of a child-sex offender to the country or countries of destination of the child-sex offender if such constructive notice would conflict with an existing investigation involving the child-sex offender.
                (B) Specific notification regarding risk to life or well-being of offender
If the Center has reason to believe that to transmit notice under paragraph (1) poses a risk to the life or well-being of the child-sex offender, the Center shall make reasonable efforts to provide constructive notice through electronic or telephonic communication to the child-sex offender of such risk.
                (C) Specific notification regarding probable denial of entry to offender
If the Center has reason to believe that a country of destination of the child-sex offender is highly likely to deny entry to the child-sex offender due to transmission of notice under paragraph (1), the Center shall make reasonable efforts to provide constructive notice through electronic or telephonic communication to the child-sex offender of such probable denial. 

There are numerous reasons HR515 should NOT become law. I’ve listed them over the years in the many post links above but focusing on those who are already listed on the public Sex Offender Registries who have the second lowest recidivism rate in America is the main reason. HR515 wastes millions of dollars on citizens who are NOT traveling for the purposes of Sex Trafficking! 

More than 96% of the Sex Trafficking by Americans traveling abroad will be perpetrated by people NOT listed on the public Sex Offender Registries.

Mary Devoy
 

Opinion: Misguided legislation won’t protect children, February 26, 2015
By Chrysanthi Leon

This week, my graduate seminar at the University of Delaware hosted several scholars who study sex trafficking, both trafficking laws and the people they affect. Together, this group of scholars and activists from around the world share some common concerns about what happens when well-meaning policymakers use the wrong tools to address problems.  

Sen. Chris Coons has the opportunity to address one aspect of this with the bill pending now in the Senate Foreign Relations committee, H.R.515, International Megan's Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking. 

While the proposed law would like to end exploitation of children, the approach it proposes will not help. 

The law focuses on people listed in sex offender registries (or Megan’s law databases). The core problem with this approach is that empirical research has established that people on the registry are not the ones who will commit new sex crimes. 

The U.S. Department of Justice’s own 2002 study shows this: New sex offenses are much more likely to be committed by people not already caught or registered as sex offenders. When the concern is sex trafficking, this is even more misguided, since no connection has ever been made between the two groups. Despite our fears of sex offenders, there is no empirical reason to expect registered sex offenders to be the ones exploiting children abroad. 

Beyond this basic mistake in the target of the bill, it would create more unneeded bureaucracy: The U.S. Marshals Service already notifies receiving countries of registered sex offender travel.

Finally, in addition to not helping children, my own research shows how restrictions like these actually harm them. The family members of people on the registry experience many of the same restrictions. Just this week I spoke with someone who was not be able to have her brother walk her down the aisle, because he is registered for “sexting” six years ago.  

Even though his local and state law enforcement offices had approved his travel, when he changed planes in California he was prevented from leaving the country. On top of missing the wedding, he lost the $2,000 ticket. 

Rather than add to the stigmas and other burdens that affect the families of sex offenders (who are also often the victims, since much sexual violence occurs within families). 

I urge Sen. Coons to oppose H.R.515, in the interest of fairness, small government and the recognition of what will actually work to protect children. 

Chrysanthi Leon is associate professor of sociology and criminal justice and women and gender studies at the University of Delaware.