Back on December 18th I posted an action item so readers could contact every Virginia Federal Representative asking them to oppose HR515.
One of the 15 Co-Sponsors of HR515 is Virginia Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, she needs to hear from ever single one of you!
If you have not previously acted on HR515 please click on the above link and do so today!
The yellow star, the scarlet letter and ‘International Megan’s Law’, January 6, 2016
By David Post
When I was growing up, in a Jewish family in
in the 1950s, Hitler and the Holocaust were common subjects of conversation in
my household. Though at the time it all seemed like ancient history —
along with the Civil War, the Black Death, the fall of Rome, and everything
else that had ever happened before I was born — I realized, when I became
an adult, that to my parents and their generation it must have seemed as
though it had happened the day before yesterday.
I remember asking my dad, when he had been talking about the roundup of the Jews and the infamous “yellow star,” a simple question that deeply puzzled my 7-year-old brain: How did the Germans know who to round up? How did they know who was, and who wasn’t, Jewish? My own family wasn’t observant in the least — we didn’t go to synagogue, or celebrate the Jewish holidays, I didn’t go to
etc.; so if they were rounding up all the Jews in Brooklyn,
how would they know about us?
And I vividly remember his reply: They knew it because in
, they recorded your
religion on your birth certificate, and on all your other important government
documents (ID card, passport, etc.). [I’m not sure that that was entirely
accurate — but it does capture the substance of the matter]. And, he reassured
me, we — here in the Germany — don’t allow that sort of thing. United
I was reminded of all that by a provision in a statute that recently sailed through the House and Senate: “International Megan’s Law” (IML for short), ostensibly designed to “prevent child exploitation and other sexual crimes through advanced notification of traveling sex offenders.”
The statute (full text here) requires the secretary of state to affix a “unique identifier” on all passports issued to “covered sex offenders” — a “visual designation affixed to a conspicuous location on the passport indicating that the individual is a covered sex offender.” A “covered sex offender” is anyone previously convicted, at any point in his/her life, for a sex offense involving a minor.
It is, as far as I can determine, the first time in
history that any such special designation will appear on the passports of any
citizens, and I think it should send at least a small chill down all of
our spines. Not to overdo the analogy, but it does call to mind Martin Niemoller’s famous dictum
(“First they came for the communists . . .”). It is part and parcel of a
dispiriting and disheartening campaign (on which I have commented a number of
times in the past — see e.g. here, here and here) piling
punitive disability upon punitive disability — not just public shaming,
but also restrictions on residency locations, employment, Internet use, etc. —
on this particularly despised class. U.S.
Passports are not merely the necessary implements for international travel — they are a basic badge of citizenship, and they are used for all sorts of identification purposes (opening a bank account, getting a job, getting a driver’s license) having nothing to do with international travel. There is something truly odious — “Scarlet Letter”-esque, one might say — about requiring people to bear, for their entire lives, this conspicuous badge of dishonor, whatever their prior crime (for which they have already been duly punished) may have been. And the fact that the category of “covered sex offenders” includes many thousands of people whose crime involved consensual sexual relations with an underage partner, in many cases when they themselves were teenagers, just serves to make it seem even more wildly disproportionate; the notion that this entire class is somehow predisposed to engage in child sex trafficking is nonsensical, and squarely at odds with the actual recidivism data.
It is fundamental to our notions of a free society that we do not punish people because we fear that they might commit a crime in the future, even if we would be safer if the government locked up all potential murderers, rapists, robbers and sex offenders. Disrupting the horrific international sex-trafficking industry is a laudable and important goal — but surely there is some line beyond which the government may not go in ostensible pursuit of that goal, and in my eyes this statute crosses it.