A federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a constitutional challenge to the recently enacted International Megan’s Law, which requires specially-marked passports for registered sex offenders whose offenses involved child victims, and authorizes notification to foreign governments when they travel. The so-called “Scarlet Letter” law is specifically aimed at stopping child sex trafficking and sex tourism, and this purpose was evidently enough to justify it even though it has a far broader effect.
Last week a federal judge heard the first arguments in a lawsuit challenging certain provisions of the recently-enacted International Megan’s Law (IML),* including one mandating that the passport of any American required to register for a sex offense involving a minor be marked in “a conspicuous location” with a “unique identifier” of their sex offender status. Other challenged provisions of the law authorize the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to notify destination nations of forthcoming visits from those individuals. On Wednesday the court heard a motion for a preliminary injunction that would block enforcement of the challenged provisions of the law pending the suit’s final outcome. See Doe v. Kerry, Case 3:16-cv-00654 (N.D. Ca.).
It appears that Mexico has inaugurated a policy of refusing entry to anyone registered in the United States as a sex offender. While no formal policy has been announced, the body of anecdotal evidence supporting the existence of an informal policy is growing. In numerous internet postings, vacationers report being turned back at the border or forced to take the next plane home, leaving their families behind. There is no indication that people with other convictions are being similarly excluded. The Mexican government’s new policy has been made technologically feasible by new federal data-sharing policies, including the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender website maintained by the Justice Department’s SMART Office. Members of the public may now do a free national search of all state sex offender registries, as well as all registries maintained in Indian country. We will continue to monitor this situation, and watch for reports about exclusionary policies from other countries.
Below is another excerpt from the second edition of Love, Roberts & Klingele, Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction: Law, Policy & Practice (West/NACDL, 2d ed. 2015)(forthcoming), this one about restrictions on international travel based on criminal record. The first section discusses the subject in general terms, while the second section describes restrictions on travel to Canada for individuals with a foreign conviction, and the methods of overcoming these restrictions. (An earlier post described methods of neutralizing Canadian convictions for purposes of travel to the U.S.)