The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill (HR 515) on February 1 that would require, for the first time in the history of the United States, the addition of “unique identifiers” to the passports of American citizens.   This bill passed in spite of valiant efforts by both state and national organizations opposing it. We're hopeful that a legal challenge can be mounted soon.   We do appreciate the efforts of those who fought against this idiotic bill.  Why not take the time to express your disgust at its passage?
 “This historic vote was taken by voice vote and without discussion or debate regarding its historic significance,” stated CA RSOL President Janice Bellucci.  “The process used for this historic vote – suspension of the rules – is an abuse of Congressional rules because it is limited to noncontroversial bills, not bills like HR 515.”
A different version of the bill was originally passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 26, 2015.  The U.S. Senate added the historic passport requirement to the bill on the Senate floor on December 17, 2015.  That amendment, made by Senator Mitch McConnell was not discussed or debated on the floor of the Senate or in committee. 
“The citizens of this nation should be afraid, very afraid, that a unique identifier will soon be added to their passports,” stated Bellucci.  “The next targeted group could be Muslims, gays or drunk drivers.”
As passed by Congress, the Secretary of State is required to add a “unique identifier” to the passports of citizens convicted of a sex offense involving a minor.  The list of offenses includes non-violent, non-contact offenses such as some acts of indecent exposure.
“Passports today are used as a primary form of identification not only to enter a foreign country,” stated Bellucci.  “A passport symbol that identifies an individual as a registered sex offender places that person and others with them at significant risk of physical harm.”
In addition, HR 515 establishes a Center that would notify foreign countries that an individual who was convicted of a sex offense involving a minor plans to visit.  This notification will be sent regardless of whether the individual has been deemed to be rehabilitated by a state and therefore is no longer required to register as a sex offender.
“The notification provisions of HR 515 will harm thousands of Americans who have been declared by a state to be rehabilitated and are no longer required to register as sex offenders,” stated Bellucci.  “The federal government in such cases will substitute its judgment, which will not be based upon an investigation of an individual, for the judgement of a state government that has conducted such an investigation.”
Before it becomes law, HR 515 must be approved by the President.  Citizens for Criminal Justice and its members lobbied in opposition to passage of HR 515.
Contact the President
The next step is to contact the President's office imploring him not to sign the bill into law.
Federal Law Suit
If President Obama signs it into law there are several lawyers planning to Challenge International Megan's Law in Federal Court. (See below)

We're hopeful that a legal challenge can be mounted soon.  We do appreciate the efforts of those who fought against this idiotic bill.  Why not take the time to express your disgust at its passage?

From: Galen Baughman
To: Peter Romer-Friedman
Sent: Friday, January 29, 2016 12:58 PM
Subject: Challenging International Megan's Law in Federal Court

Dear Leaders in Sex Offender Policy:

If you're getting this message it's because I believe you can help me. A number of lawyers are working with me to lay the foundations for a legal challenge to International Megan's Law now that it is signed into law.  H.R. 515 did pass on a suspension vote in the House this Monday (2-1-16) and will now be sent to President Obama's desk.

We're looking for ideal plaintiffs and we need your help to find people who meet one of these criteria:

  • 1- Does not have a passport, but wants one
  • 2- Has a passport about to expire
  • 3- Travels internationally a number of times per year (especially for work)
  • 4- Has been harassed while traveling in or out of the US based on registration status

If you think you fit any of these four categories, please write to me with the following information:

  • 1-Name
  • 2-Age
  • 3-Age at time of offense
  • 4-Offense(s)
  • 5-Which of the four (4) categories you fit into
  • 6-Would you be willing to be a name plaintiff to challenge this law?
  • 7-State you live in

All responses will be treated as confidential by the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs and Human Rights Defense Center.

Time is of the essence. Please respond soon and share this with your networks.

Warmly yours,

Galen Baughman
Soros Justice Fellow
Human Rights Defense Center
11 Dupont Circle, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 681-8121

"Are We All Sex Offenders?" | TEDx Talk

Open Society Foundations Q&A Profile

The marking of passports makes official the second class citizenship of those who must register as sex offenders.  Registered offenders are an easy target for politicians in an election year.  But, the precedent being made, it is unlikely lawmakers will stop there. Drug dealers and those convicted of other crimes would be the next logical citizens to get marked passports. Those on the no-fly list and those whose associations’ make them suspect of holding anti-American sentiments could also see their passports marked. And, what about those diagnosed with mental illness?

Slippery slopes start somewhere. Once equality under the law is given up, the bottom may be a long way down.


International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking (HR 4573): Misguided and Ineffective Policy

IML is a misguided attempt to address the very real problem of sex trafficking. We ask the President not to sign the bill.

IML intrudes on the fundamental right of certain American citizens who are required to register as former sex offenders (hereafter called “Registered Citizens”) to travel freely without interference from their government. Additionally, IML violates the due process rights of Registered Citizens, affording them no opportunity to refute the implication of dangerousness that would be broadcast by their government. IML will result in the criminalization of urgent travel by affected Americans who may not be able to notify authorities in advance. Finally, IML attempts to manipulate international law by encouraging the use of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2152d) to pressure other countries into enacting similar policies.

IML has been appropriately rejected by Congress in four previous iterations.[1] It casts too broad a net. Most Registered Citizens to whom it applies pose no danger of contributing to the demand for sex trafficking.[2]  IML would establish a costly new bureaucracy, which will have no significant impact on the problem of international sex trafficking. IML may even threaten the welfare of traveling American Registered Citizens by implying to foreign authorities that they are the “bad guys.”

International Megan’s Law Will Violate Citizen Rights

Restricts freedom of travel. IML creates two classes of American citizens: those who may travel freely, and those who must notify authorities before leaving the country. The vast majority of Registered Citizens have long since exited the criminal justice system and have lived years, even decades, in the community without re-offending.  They have a recognized right to travel freely without interference from their government. IML violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)[3] by interfering with the free movement of American citizens.

Criminalizing innocent travel. International travel is often necessary without advance notice (e.g. a sick relative, an urgent business obligation). Many international travel situations require significant financial commitment from the traveler long before the application for a visa. IML could force Registered Citizens with travel emergencies to do so without complying with the law, thus risking arrest and prosecution upon return home. Equally troubling, IML would discourage law-abiding Registered Citizens from ever embarking on legitimate international travel.

Violating due process. The AWA listing of conviction status in no way reflects a person’s actual re-offense risk[4]; however the Angel Watch Center (AWC) would proffer Registered Citizens’ federally protected information to foreign authorities with the clear implication of dangerousness. Under this bill, Registered Citizens are offered no opportunity to contest the implication of dangerousness or to prove the innocent nature of their travel in advance. Thus, IML would violate due process rights of Registered Citizens traveling internationally.

International Megan’s Law Is Flawed Policy

Insignificant effect on trafficking prevention. The IML findings conflate two facts: that Registered Citizens travel internationally, and that American citizens account for a significant number of trafficking convictions. However, there is no logical connection between these two facts. Domestic experience suggests over 95% of arrests for sexual crimes are of first time offenders, not Registered Citizens.[5] In fact, Registered Citizens have an overall low likelihood of sexual re-offending.[6] Higher socio-economic status (which permits international travel), may correlate with an even lower recidivism risk.[7] If one first determines what fraction of all international travel is being done by Registered Citizens, then how few of that number even pose a risk for sex trafficking, it is far more reasonable to conclude that most sex offenses committed by international travelers are by persons never previously convicted of a sex crime, and that most travel by Registered Citizens is for legitimate, non-criminal reasons.

Given this critical flaw, IML would be a huge bureaucratic expense, with little or no effect on rates of international sex trafficking.  Compounding the problem, IML encourages the President to use of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2152d) to pressure other countries into enacting similarly misguided policies despite a lack of evidence that such policies will curtail international sex trafficking or the demand for it.

Puts American travelers in harm’s way. Many Registered Citizens were originally convicted of behavior which would not have been prosecuted elsewhere.[8] In spite of the designation in the AWA, many Registered Citizens’ convictions involved neither children nor trafficking, and yet the AWC notification strongly implies that the Registered Citizen is guilty of some generic “child-sex offense” that is reasonably related to international sex trafficking. This could and would be broadly interpreted by officials in the destination country, with no check on how those officials handle the information. A Registered Citizen could be harassed or even harmed by officials or others in the community who are notified of their presumably dangerous background.[9]


IML will violate the travel rights and due process rights of traveling Americans, may have dangerous collateral consequences for affected citizens, and is not supported by any evidence that it will achieve a reduction in international sex trafficking. There exist proven methods of combating international sex trafficking that are worthy of support by the United States Congress. The International Megan’s Law is not among them. We strongly urge this legislation not be enacted into law.

[1] 110th Congress HR 5722 did not pass; 111th Congress HR 1623 did not pass; 111th Congress HR 5238 did not pass; 112th Congress HR 3253 did not pass.

[2]  e.g., The Adam Walsh Act, touchstone for IML, requires lifetime registration for persons as young as 14.  Many offenses included in IML do not fit the legal definition of sex trafficking, i.e. “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” 22 U.S. Code § 7102 (10).

[3] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 12, Section 1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. 2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own. 3. The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant. 4. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

[4] Zgoba, Kristen, et. al, “A Multi-State Evaluation of Sex Offender Risk and Recidivism Using the Adam Walsh Act           Tiers”,

[5] In a recent study 96% of all new arrests for sexual crimes occurred among those without previous sexual crime convictions. Sandler J, Freeman NJ, Socia KM. “Does a watched pot boil? A time-series analysis of New York State's sex offender registration and notification law”. Psychol Public Policy Law 2008;14(4):284–302

[6] Langan, Patrick,, “Recidivism of Sex Offenders Released from Prison in 1994”, USDOJ, BJS 2003 NCJ


[7] Broadhurst, R. “Criminal careers, sex offending and dangerousness”, in M. Brown & J. Pratt (eds), Dangerous Offenders: Punishment & Social Order, Routledge, London, 2000.  pp. 109–26.

[8] e.g. In Europe, the age of consent is 16 in Cyprus, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland. It is 15 in France, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and Greece.  It is 14 in Austria, Germany, Portugal and Italy.

[9] Even without the IML and AWC, Registered Citizens have been turned away at borders, or escorted out of a country based only on their USA registry status.