US CHILD SEX OFFENDERS TO HAVE CONVICTIONS NOTED ON PASSPORTS

The passports of Americans convicted of sex offenses against a child will soon bear a mark of their crimes.

The State Department announced this week that a sentence noting their conviction would be added to the back inside cover of offenders’ passports.

Once the State Department receives their names from the Department of Homeland Security, it will begin notifying affected sex offenders that their passports were being revoked and reissued with the new language.

Smaller passport cards, which can be used only for very limited international travel, will not be issued to such offenders because they lack room for a similar message. It was not immediately clear how many passport holders would be affected.

The policy, which went into effect on Tuesday, was required under legislation passed in 2016 known as “International Megan’s Law.” It is named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old girl from New Jersey whose rape and murder in 1994 inspired a slew of namesake laws that allow neighbors to be notified when a sex offender moves to their community. Her attacker, a neighbor, had previous child sex offense convictions.

The new passport law, which is intended “to protect children and others from sexual abuse and exploitation, including sex trafficking and sex tourism,” has drawn criticism.

The Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws, a nonprofit that fights for the civil rights of registered sex offenders, sued the government last year over the measure, arguing that it violated the constitutional rights of registered sex offenders.

“We do believe that this is a very slippery slope,” said Janice Bellucci, the founder and executive director of the group.

“Today, it’s people convicted of sex offenses involving minors, but, given the current political environment, perhaps next it will be Muslims,” she said. “Or maybe it will be people who are gay.”

A federal judge threw out the group’s previous legal challenge but the alliance plans to sue again, this time over the State Department’s implementation of the new law, she said. Ms. Bellucci and other critics say the law is without precedent.

Critics also say American sexual misconduct laws can be overly broad and are sometimes used against perpetrators who are themselves minors when the incidents occurred. In some cases, teenagers have faced sex offense charges for transmitting nude photos of themselves to others.

A State Department spokesman could not say whether the department had issued similar passport declarations for other convictions.

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