Sex Offenders' Scarlet Passports

On Feb. 8, President Barack Obama signed the “International Megan's Law,” which puts a unique identifier on convicted sex offenders' passports. It also creates a new office at Customs tasked with alerting destination countries when a sex offender travels abroad. Finally, it allows the Secretary of State to revoke sex offenders' current passports to mark them with the new identifier.

Last week, the California chapter of Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that HR 515 is unconstitutional and puts sex offenders at risk. (California leads the nation in sex offenders, with nearly 90,000 registered.)

“There has never been a unique identifier on American passports,” says Janice Bellucci, an attorney and president of California RSOL, who filed suit in San Francisco on behalf of her clients, two of whom are local sex offenders. “For something similar, you'd have to go back decades to Nazi Germany stamping a 'J' on Jewish passports, or to Communist Russia.”

The “old” Megan's Law already requires offenders to notify authorities at least 21 days before international travel. This next step could lead to them being deported from destination countries, or, in extreme scenarios, being “put before a firing squad,” Bellucci warns.

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