See main article: International Megans law EXPOSED! Now, hear the truth about HR 5138INTERNATIONAL MEGAN'S LAW OF 2010 -- (House of Representatives - July 27, 2010)
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 5138) to protect children from sexual exploitation by mandating reporting requirements for convicted sex traffickers and other registered sex offenders against minors intending to engage in international travel, providing advance notice of intended travel by high interest registered sex offenders outside the United States to the government of the country of destination, requesting foreign governments to notify the United States when a known child sex offender is seeking to enter the United States, and for other purposes, as amended.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows:
Text Omitted Here
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Nevada.
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise
[Page: H6094] GPO's PDF
and extend their remarks and to include extraneous material on the bill under consideration.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Nevada?
There was no objection.
Ms. BERKLEY. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I rise in very strong support of this bill.
I would like to first commend the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the ranking member from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) for their hard work and dedication to this bill, International Megan's Law of 2010.
Mr. Speaker, this is a product of a 2-year investigation into international child sex tourism and exploitation. Staffs on both sides of the aisle, including staff from the Judiciary Committee, have worked very hard to craft a bill that would serve as an important tool in protecting children abroad from child sex predators.
Some child sex offenders, who are really perverts, travel from the United States to other countries solely for the purpose of committing sexual acts with children. Others decide to stay abroad, taking advantage of their anonymity where laws against these sex acts are weak or are rarely enforced.
International Megan's Law would establish a system for providing advance notice to foreign countries when a convicted child sex offender travels to that country. It also mandates a registration requirement for child sex offenders from the United States who reside or stay abroad.
Worldwide, over 2 million children are sexually exploited each year through trafficking, prostitution, and child sex tourism. The damage inflicted on these children by sexual crimes can be incredibly severe and beyond comprehension to most of us. Not only are exploited children at risk of physical trauma and diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, but they suffer very serious psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage that can last for the remainder of their lives.
Between 2003 and 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement cooperated with INTERPOL and foreign law enforcement agencies to investigate cases of the sexual exploitation of children abroad, obtaining 73 convictions for such crimes committed in other countries.
This bill will strengthen that enforcement capability and will discourage child sex tourism by requiring these offenders to notify relevant authorities of their intentions to travel abroad. It will also establish a nonpublic registry at U.S. consular and diplomatic missions where U.S. citizens and residents who live abroad and who have been convicted of sex offenses against minors will be required to register.
To know that an individual poses a danger to children and to do nothing simply because that person leaves our territory is unconscionable. We have the capability to help other governments protect their citizens, and we need to do all we can to prevent these predators from circumventing our laws to prey on children of foreign countries.
Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise as a strong and proud original cosponsor of H.R. 5138, the International Megan's Law of 2010.
The innocence of childhood is a sacred trust that deserves to be protected always and everywhere. Sexual crimes against children are especially deplorable because they violate that trust, rob children of their childhoods and, in some cases, begin a cycle of abuse that ruins multiple lives by turning victims into future abusers.
In recent decades, Mr. Speaker, we have grown in our understanding of these crimes and of the compulsions of their perpetrators, so our laws have also evolved to better protect the young. In most cases, convicted offenders who pose risks to children are required to register in the localities in which they reside.
Just 2 months ago, my home State of Florida enacted additional safeguards, barring predators from loitering near schools and other places where children congregate. But right now, such protections do not effectively extend beyond national borders, and so an alarming number of child predators use the anonymity that comes with international travel to help them find new victims.
Far away from the jurisdictions in which their crimes are known, these offenders enter unsuspecting communities to groom and exploit young boys and girls. This heartbreaking pattern occurs all around the world. It can involve something as simple as illicit travel to a known sex tourism destination, such as Cuba, where that brutal regime remains classified by our State Department as a tier 3 entity that fails to meet even the minimum standards for combating human trafficking. Or it can entail a ruse as sophisticated as establishing a front charity or an orphanage in economically depressed areas, such as southeast Asia, to secure ready access to vulnerable children.
These criminals are ruthless in their hunt for new victims, but as things stand today, no country, including the United States, receives adequate warning when dangerous child predators are coming to visit. Thus, many crimes remain undeterred and undetected, and many young lives are permanently scarred as a result. The International Megan's Law will help protect the children of the world from these dangers in two major ways:
First, it will establish a system for providing advance notice to officials when a sex offender who poses a high risk to children is traveling to their country.
Second, it will require U.S. child sex offenders who live overseas to register and periodically reverify their presence with local U.S. diplomatic or consular missions.
This bill also grants the State Department clear authority to restrict the passports of convicted child sex offenders so that they cannot jump from country to country indefinitely to avoid returning to the U.S.
While the bill is simple in its basic concept, it provides a carefully constructed mechanism to ensure that the full range of operational, legal, and constitutional interests are protected.
I want to thank my colleague from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) for his leadership on this bill, which is the culmination of years of research, field visits and consultations with U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials.
Child predators do not become less dangerous when they cross international borders. They must not be allowed to use their passports as a disguise.
I urge my colleagues to support this basic protection of our children.
Mr. Speaker, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), the author of this bill, and I ask unanimous consent that he control the time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Florida?
There was no objection.
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, the International Megan's Law is the culmination of over 3 years of extensive negotiations and research by multiple parties. Mr. Payne and I are deeply grateful to all who have helped craft this legislation.
I want to thank the majority leader, STENY HOYER, for scheduling this legislation today and for his commitment to mitigating the crime, the heinous crime, of human trafficking. He and I have worked on that for years. And the International Megan's Law, which is a corollary to the trafficking work, has as its singular goal the protection of children from sex predators.
Special thanks to Chairman Berman and ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN for their strong support for International Megan's Law, for helping to shepherd it through the committee, and for their staffs for being so helpful in terms of words and phrases, as well as important concepts in the bill.
I would also like to thank Chairman PAYNE and Ranking Member LAMAR SMITH and BOBBY SCOTT for their support and their recommendations that are included in the bill as well.
I would especially like to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Daniel E. Lungren), former Attorney General, now Congressman, an expert on Megan's Law, for his enormous contribution because he was at the forefront in his State in implementing the
[Page: H6095] GPO's PDF
Megan's Law; and TED POE, who is the co-chairman of the Victims' Rights Caucus, for his work and for his compassion for those who are victimized by any number of crimes, including the crimes that we are talking about today.
I also would like to thank Sheri Rickert, Kristin Wells, and Janice Kaguyutan, staffers who have really done yeoman's work on this legislation. I am very, very grateful for that. And the NGOs that have also collaborated with us, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who have endorsed the bill, the Covenant House, which has done a petition drive, and World Vision, and my distinguished friend from Nevada (Ms. Berkley), I thank her for her leadership as well.
This is a bipartisan bill and, hopefully, it will become law for one reason: to protect children.
Mr. Speaker, our national and various State versions of Megan's Law have revolutionized how we deal with child predators. Maureen and Richard Kanka of my hometown wrote the book on neighborhood notification and protection of children and families through information. We all owe an enormous debt to Maureen and Richard for taking a horrific tragedy, the sexual abuse and murder of their 7-year-old daughter, Megan, back in 1994, and turning it into the noble cause of protecting children throughout the United States.
But now it's imperative that we take the lessons learned on how to protect our children from known child sex predators within our borders and expand those protections globally.
Child predators, Mr. Speaker, thrive on secrecy and lack of any meaningful accountability. The secrecy they thrive on allows them to commit heinous crimes, crimes against children, and to do so with impunity. Megan's Law, with its emphasis on notification and knowing who is doing what and where, not only protects American children, but it also will protect children worldwide.
Just last month, Mr. Speaker, the GAO issued a deeply disturbing report entitled ``Current Situation Results in Thousands of Passports Issued to Registered Sex Offenders.'' The GAO found that at least 4,500 U.S. passports were issued to known registered sex offenders in fiscal year 2008 alone. The GAO emphasized that this number is probably understated due to the limitations of the data that it was able to analyze and to access.
Let me also remind--we all know it--passports last for 10 years, so, again, this number would grow every year.
What is even more disturbing are the details about 30 of those sex offenders, passport recipients the GAO selected for further investigation. One registered sex offender solicited trips to Mexico to find and prey on young boys. The FBI found cameras in a medical bag with a Spanish language flyer advertising lice removal for children, a procedure that requires children to undress. This offender, who is currently serving a prison sentence for possession of child pornography, applied for a passport because he plans to live in Mexico after he serves his sentence to avoid registering as a sex offender.
Another sex offender in the GAO report has multiple convictions for sexual contact with 11-year-olds. The offender had traveled to the Philippines, a known child sex tourism destination, as well as to Germany and France, since receiving his passport. He was recently indicted for possession of child pornography and for attempting to have sex with a two-year-old little girl.
Several of the registered sex offenders used their passports to travel to known child sex tourism destinations, including Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean islands. The victims of several of these offenders range from the ages of 7 to 11 years old.
Mr. Speaker, the ILO estimates that there are about 1.8 million children who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation around the world each year. The GAO's report confirms that American sex offenders are a significant part of this outrage.
According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, each year about 10,000 sex offenders covered by the bill before us travel internationally. We have information and the technology at our disposal to determine what constitutes a high-risk registered sex offender and to ensure that appropriate government officials are noticed in a timely fashion. And, frankly, if the country wants to say, ``you don't get a visa, you don't come,'' or ``if you do come, our law enforcement will keep an eye on you,'' that's what we hope will happen if this becomes law.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 5138 would establish the legal framework that is required to accomplish this very achievable goal of noticing. Pursuant to the bill, registered sex offenders would notify our law enforcement 30 days before they travel, allowing experts in the newly created international sex offender travel center, led by ICE, to ascertain whether the individual poses a high risk of sexually exploiting children in the destination country. If the answer is in the affirmative, our law enforcement would be able to notify officials in that country who could either monitor the activities when he enters or prevent him from entering all together.
The legislation would also establish sex offender registries at U.S. diplomatic missions for U.S. child sex offenders who reside in other countries. This foreign registration system would allow U.S. law enforcement to track the location of sex offenders and to better ascertain if and when they re-enter the United States.
Clearly, the goals of this legislation do not stop at protecting children overseas from U.S. predators. Sex offenders from around the world are now able to cross borders and oceans to carry out their nefarious activity under the cloak of anonymity and disappear before a child is willing or able to reveal the terrible crime.
The International Megan's Law would establish the model needed for the Administration to pressure other countries to take action to stop child sex tourism originating within their borders and threatening children in the United States and everywhere else.
I have finally, Mr. Speaker, had so many conversations with people from other countries, foreign dignitaries who have asked me when the United States Congress is going to do something about American sex offenders traveling to their countries to rape their children. The International Megan's Law is the answer to that question, and I hope my colleagues will support it.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Poe), an esteemed member of both the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee, and founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus.
Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the work the gentleman, Mr. Smith, has done on human trafficking throughout his career here in Congress to make the Congress and the American people aware of this horrible tragedy that's taking place throughout the world. And I especially appreciate his work on this legislation, International Megan's Law.
Mr. Speaker, slavery is alive and, unfortunately, doing very well in this world today. We see it in the form of human trafficking, sex trafficking, slavery of children who are taken from different parts of the world by these slave traders and, for money, they exploit these children, and they make money because there are consumers that want to abuse children.
Unfortunately, 25 percent of the consumers who use sex trade victims are from the United States. They leave this country. They go to foreign countries. They find some child, and they abuse that child, and they pay some slave trader for that service. A million people a year are involved as victims of human trafficking. Fifty percent of them are children. Most of them are under the age of 18. It is the scourge that is taking place in our world today. And it's about time we let the world know about it. And it's about time we do something about it.
I am founder and cochair, along with my friend Mr. Costa from California, of the Victims Rights Caucus. Children that are exploited, that are taken and they are used for sex trafficking, first of all are not criminals. They are victims of criminal conduct. The criminals are the slave traders and the criminals are those who pay to exploit those children.
[Page: H6096] GPO's PDF
It's important that we first take care and find out who those victims are. We should treat them as victims, those children that have been exploited. The second thing we do, we find out who those slave traders are and we put them in jails throughout the world. Lock them up. That's where they belong, no matter where they do their dirty deeds. And the third thing is those consumers, those who pay to exploit children, some of those 25 percent from the United States, we not only lock them up, we let people know who they are. We publish their names, we put their photographs on the Internet, we let people know who these individuals are.
This legislation goes a long way in helping the children. So when some predator gets out of our penitentiary for molesting a kid and wants to leave the country to continue their evil ways, they've got to tell us about it so we can tell that other country, Watch out, this this guy's coming to your country. And so that country can be on notice, so we can be on notice, so we can keep up with these people.
Based on my experience as a judge in Texas for over 20 years, unfortunately most of these child molesters, when they leave the penitentiary, they do it again, and they continue those devilish ways. And it's important we know who they are. This legislation is excellent. I support it.
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. I thank Judge Poe for his extraordinary statement and his observation that they recommit. That is what this is all about.
I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Daniel E. Lungren), ranking member on the House Committee on Administration, an original cosponsor of this bill, and former Attorney General of California.
Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. I thank the gentleman for the time.
Mr. Speaker, in the mid-1990s, when I was privileged to serve the State of California as its Attorney General, we looked to New Jersey for inspiration to change our laws. At that time, if you were a sex offender convicted of a sex offense and you had served your time, even though that was public information, it was almost impossible for the public at large to know who you were and where you were living. So we decided to follow the New Jersey law in California and adopt Megan's Law, which gave information more readily accessible to the public about where these predators live. It has worked enormously well.
The claims of those who thought we would somehow deprive those who had served their time of their privacy rights, or that we would somehow instill the seeds of vigilantism, have been proven wrong. It has worked very, very effectively.
Since that time we have adopted laws such as Jessica's Laws, which says that those who are registered sex offenders cannot live near children, they cannot live near schools where children go, they cannot live close to the parks where they may play. And that has worked well.
So some of these sex offenders have decided that they will ply their vicious trade, so to speak, beyond our shores. And those are the ones that this International Megan's Law directs its attention to. No longer will they have the mask of anonymity when they go looking for children to exploit in foreign countries.
This is a simple law. It is a law based on information. It is a law based on the knowledge of those who have already committed and are likely to recommit. It makes eminent sense. We hope there will be a unanimous vote in favor of International Megan's Law.
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Burton), the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia and one of the original sponsors of this legislation.
Mr. BURTON of Indiana. I want to thank everybody that's been involved in this legislation, Mr. Poe; my colleague from California (Mr. Lungren); and I especially want to say something about Chris Smith.
Chris Smith, who is the sponsor of this bill, has been one of the hardest working Congressmen that I have ever seen in my life. He has worked very hard on the rights of the unborn since he came to Congress what, 25 or so years ago. He has worked very hard on things like Megan's Law. We have had a lot of great legislators in this body throughout history, but I don't know of anybody who has been more dedicated, more committed to doing the right things for children, both born and unborn, than Chris Smith.
And I think in the Bible, and I may misquote this, but Paul the Apostle said, ``I have fought the fight, I have kept the faith, henceforth the crown of righteousness is laid up for me in Heaven.'' And that fits you too, Chris. I really mean that.
Let me just say this about Megan's Law. There should be no place in the world for these people to hide. There should be no place where they're not prosecuted or persecuted for what they do to these children. And so I think this law is so important because there have been literally planeloads of perverts, pedophiles that travel around the world to ply their evil when they can't do it here in the United States because we've started passing laws that deal with them so severely.
No matter what we do in this legislation or with this legislation, in my opinion it's not enough. It's just not enough. And I don't think I want to be redundant and say anything more than that except for all of you who have worked so hard on this legislation, you have my undying gratitude.
Ms. BERKLEY. I continue to reserve my time.
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. In closing, Mr. Speaker, I again thank my friends on the majority side for their courtesy and for working so closely with us on this legislation. It truly is a bipartisan bill.
You know, in 2000 I was the prime sponsor of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and added the three Ps, prevention, prosecution, and protection. And a very comprehensive effort was made. We are now 10 years into implementation of that law. The TIP report that comes out every year comes out pursuant to that law.
One of the things we did in that law was to try to get every other country to pass laws that look a lot like ours, and maybe better and then we will borrow from their ideas. In this legislation as well there is a real admonition to the President and the State Department to try to get other countries to enact Megan's Laws in their own countries--a few have them, most don't--so we can protect our kids from these pedophiles when they come to our shores.
I urge a ``yes'' vote.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING &
July 21, 2010.
Hon. CHRIS SMITH,
DEAR REPRESENTATIVE SMITH: On behalf of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), I commend you for introducing H.R. 5138, the International Megan's Law of 2010. This important piece of legislation will help protect children around the world from registered sex offenders who seek to victimize them.
Sex tourism is an insidious practice whereby offenders travel to other countries for the purpose of sexually victimizing a child. According to an estimate from the U.S. Department of State, 1 million children are exploited by the global commercial sex trade each year. Currently, there are very few limitations regulating the international travel of registered sex offenders. Simply requiring registration within an offender's country of residence does nothing to protect children in other countries from victimization. It is imperative that we do everything we can to provide U.S. and international law enforcement with information that might prevent a child from being victimized.
We are grateful for your leadership and your steadfast commitment to the most vulnerable members of our society.
President & CEO.
I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.
Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 5138, as amended.
The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.
Labels: International Megans Law