A federal judge in Oakland, California ruled against registered sex offenders in a case involving passports and international travel. A statute known as the International Megan’s Law will require sex offenders to carry a stamp in their passport to alert foreign governments of their status.
District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, who presided over the case, ruled that the law is in accordance with the government's duty in "preventing U.S. persons from committing acts of sexual abuse or exploitation in other countries and in facilitating cooperation with and reciprocal notifications from other countries,” notes the San Francisco Chronicle.
Hamilton further defended the law against claims that it would add unnecessary stigma to sex offenders. She stated that the US Supreme Court “has already found that any stigma associated with convictions for sex offenses is a product of the sex offenders’ prior conviction and cannot be attributed to sex-offender registration and notification laws.”
“Our U.S. federal government is telling other countries that the person they’ve just marked on the passport is likely to engage in child sex trafficking or child sex tourism," argued Janice Bellicci, who represented the plaintiffs.
“It really is our goal to prevent anybody’s passport from being marked with a conspicuous, unique identifier,” she told the Washington Post, adding that she will challenge the law in a new lawsuit through a different court.
Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat, explained his opposition to the law at a hearing (via Slate):
The failure of this provision to allow for the individualized consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding the traveler’s criminal history, including how much time has elapsed since his last offense, underscores how this provision is overbroad. Details such as whether the traveler is a serial child rapist versus someone with a decades-old conviction from when he was 19-years-old and his girlfriend was 14 … are significant, and would allow law enforcement to more appropriately prioritize their finite resources.
The bill was signed into law in February by President Barack Obama and will go into effect once a system of identification is established.