We lost the battle, brewing for some eight years in Congress, which will effectively stop those of us, U.S. ‘registered sex offenders.’ from venturing beyond our own countries. The enactment of International Megan’s Law is not the end of the war, however, as we are fighting back against this injustice in the courts and, to the extent that we wield any influence, in the media.
The bill was signed into law by President Obama February 8th of this year and will stoke the fire under the simmering cauldron which ‘child sex offenders’ are forced to inhabit and further diminish our already depleted portfolio of rights.
To capsulate the highlights of the law (and which I see as the nadir of a once free society):
- It will criminalize the act of traveling outside the U.S. without prior notice and permission from the government. Ten-year terms in federal prison await those of us who fail to do so.
- It will obligate the Department of Homeland Security to notify foreign governments of the anticipated travel of U.S. ‘child sex offenders’ and encourage those governments to do what they will with that information, whether that be to slam the door in our faces or something even worse.
- It will obligate the Department of State to revoke the passports of U.S. ‘sex offenders’ and require them to reapply for new ones with a designation affixed to each indicating its bearer to be a ‘sex offender.’ [Note: this provision is not limited to ‘child sex offenders’ but includes all ‘sex offenders.’]
There are a number of other details, none of which ameliorate the law to our advantage, which provide a structure for carrying out this mission or which specify the information which the ‘sex offender’ must provide before travel, such as detailed itineraries, purpose for travel, places one intends to stay, etc.
So much for spontaneity in travel! Of course, that assumes that there are countries that will let us in the door in the first place.
Here’s the funny thing: perhaps the most important aspect of this law, the notification of foreign governments of the intended travel by U.S. ‘sex offenders,’ has already been the practice of the U.S. Government for some three years. The U.S. has been issuing these foreign notifications, in the absence of any clear authority to do so, and Registrant travelers have already been turned away in droves by many countries, some of which have, coincidentally, explicitly (and very recently) announced laws forbidding ‘sex offenders’ from entering their countries.
So, the peculiar thing about this new law is that we already have a very good sense of how it will play out and the results, so far, aren’t pretty, with many Registrants facing humiliating refusals at foreign ports of entry and being made to get on the first returning flights to the U.S.
Exceptions to those countries routinely turning away all Registrants, however, appear to be some Western European countries such as The Netherlands and France (but not the U.K., of course). Many other countries, particularly Asian and Latin American countries, as well as Russia, have joined with the U.K. in refusing entry to U.S. ‘sex offenders.’
The eerily-named governmental consortium called ‘The Five Eyes,’ which consists of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had already been turning away each others’ ‘sex offenders’ for many years now, a fact which provides some strong clues as to the origin of this more recent global expansion of the policy of internal exile for ‘sex offenders.’
The critical component, which is facilitating this worldwide travel ban, is the international police agency, INTERPOL, which has openly lobbied for such bans. This is an agency which deserves far more scrutiny than it once did when it was mostly a sleepy backwater in danger of complete irrelevance. It has been completely made-over by the most powerful governments who comprise its membership and the new INTERPOL is very muscular and frightening, indeed. If ever there were an entity deserving of a full-on paranoid conspiracy theory, INTERPOL would be it.
The only way that we know anything about the fallout from our government’s extant policy of notifying foreign governments of U.S. Registrants’ travel (which predates the recent law, not yet in effect) is from the message boards at California RSOL (CARSOL) where several of us started discussing this looming issue some three or four years ago.
The only way we knew which countries were barring us was by simply attempting to travel to those countries and then reporting back to the CARSOL discussion forum. The U.S. government neither informed us ahead of time that it had begun notifying foreign governments of our ‘sex offender’ status, nor did it provide any reports of which countries had been refusing us entry. The results of this program, however, soon became quite evident as more startled and alarmed Registrants took to our forum to report recent frustrated attempts at travel.
We are preparing a country-by-country matrix based upon those attempted travel experiences that will be available shortly. Nevertheless, the information in that report will exist only because individual Registrants reported their experiences to the CARSOL message board and, as such, that information will almost certainly be incomplete.
If this is sounding a bit like a grassroots effort to fight back against an ugly, unfolding (and uncommunicative) juggernaut aimed precisely at us, then you are right.
From what I can tell, our group, alone, has been gathering the appalling details of this secretive regimen and exposing it to the light of day although we now have the satisfaction in knowing that they are beginning to be known more widely, thanks to a handful of media reports.
I am encouraged by the individuals or publications which have begun to respond critically to IML such as Lenore Skenazy (Free Range Kids), David Post (of the Volokh Conspiracy, now part of the Washington Post), Reason Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Slate Magazine, Counterpunch Magazine, and the Washington Times. No, they’re not overwhelming in their number, but striking in their willingness to break both the complicitous silence and the flip-side hysteria which has gripped the press for so long when the subject is ‘sex offenders.’
This development, i.e., the enactment of International Megan’s Law, perhaps more than any previous outrage against Registrants, appears to have helped many to find their voices and to raise them in protest against the continued degradation of ‘sex offenders,’ including those who are not themselves Registrants.
So, while IML has not quite merited a full ‘news cycle,’ it has aroused something which I find intriguing, even promising: the emergence of individuals and groups willing to speak out against the shrieking unreason which has dominated the ‘sex offender’ public discourse for decades.
Just as importantly, we are not taking this terrible law laying down, either. We are challenging International Megan’s Law in the U.S. Federal District Court of San Francisco, having fired our responding salvo immediately after the cowardly, former constitutional law professor, President Obama, signed the bill into law early last month.
The California Reform of Sex Offender Laws and its Director, attorney Janice Bellucci, representing four unnamed plaintiffs, filed the civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of IML on a variety of grounds, including as an abridgment of First and Fifth Amendment rights and the clause against ex post facto laws. Those plaintiffs represent something of an overview of ‘child sex offenders’ whose circumstances raise different or distinct constitutional issues, such as the right to travel in employment or the right to live with or visit family members.
Since the appalling, and completely un-protested, ‘Protect Act of 2003,’ which made it a U.S. crime for an American citizen to travel overseas and to have ‘illicit sex’ with someone under the U.S. age-of consent of eighteen and which also forbad Registrants from sponsoring foreign-born spouses for U.S. citizenship, there have been a number of American Registrants living overseas in their spouse’s country, their spouses having been kicked-out of America by that law.
Now, with IML, those Registrants find that they are being deported by their spouse’s country back to the U.S. and are prevented from living with, or even seeing, their own spouses and children, who cannot join him in the U.S. due to ‘The Protect Act.’
One of the plaintiffs in the challenge to IML is from that category of persons caught in the double-bind of two terrible laws. Another has lost his livelihood after being permanently barred from business travel.
A temporary injunction, barring the U.S. from further notification of foreign governments of the status of U.S. Registrants as well as halting the issuance of ‘sex offender’ branded passports while our lawsuit is in play, has also been filed in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, although not yet granted.
Our lawsuit also offers the possibility of challenging, not just International Megan’s Law, but the entire system of sex offender registration itself, in light of all the terrible things which have happened since SCOTUS, in Smith v. Doe, upheld the constitutionality of sex offender registries back in 2003 when it held that registration was ‘regulation, not punishment’. We now have lots of examples of ‘punishment’ which have been the product of that decision, just some of which are in full view in the challenge to IML.
We now await word from the court granting us our injunction and for our lawsuit challenging IML to wend its way through the courts, a journey which we suspect will take us to the U.S. Supreme Court.
I must say, I’m savoring the opportunity.
By David Kennerly