A bill has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. HR 898, "Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013," has as its stated intent: "To authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2014 through 2017 for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, and for other purposes."
In brief, a portion of the bill would require persons who are registered sex offenders to renew an American passport annually rather than the standard ten years. It would subject the holders of "sex offender passports" to increased scrutiny. It would create standards regarding the right to have an American passport that are applicable only to a single group, the vast majority of whom have never and will never use the passport for any nefarious purpose.
As one critic of the bill wrote, "Nothing like seeing the 'And for other purposes,' the governmental catch-all-do-all phrase. While the intent is 'Sex Trafficking,' the wording is such that it can affect any registered sex offender traveling to other countries." He continues, "... in reality -reading his bill HR-898- ANY and ALL persons registered will be affected if they apply for a passport, or if they currently have a passport (Passports being good for 10 years)."
Even disregarding the ambiguous "for other purposes" and going with the language used in media reports and press releases, we have, "A new amendment to Megan’s Law that restricts the passports of U.S. citizens convicted of sex crimes against children...."
This is nonsense. "Crimes against children" sounds awful but is every bit as much a catch-phrase for almost anything as is "for other purposes." It is by no means limited to those who have engaged in trafficking of children.
For the purposes of sexual charges, a child is anyone under the age of consent. Therefore, the man who twenty years ago was registered while in high school for consensual sex with his underage girlfriend, the man whose said girlfriend has been his wife for the past eighteen years, the man who is raising four children with that wife, the man whose charge on the Texas sex offender registry is "sexual assault of a child," the man who will be on that registry for life, would fall under this legislation and be subjected to its requirements and restrictions.
Likewise the man or woman who, as a child, engaged in playful or exploratory touching with a younger sibling or cousin and has been on the registry ever since and will be for life in spite of no repeat offenses and living a law abiding lifestyle will be subject to this legislation should it pass.
The boy and girl in Utah in 2004, ages 12 and 13 respectively, who, when she became pregnant and their sexual involvement became public knowledge, were each charged with sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 and each named as the victim in the other's case, would fall under what this legislation will demand should either or both ever apply for a passport.
Anyone and everyone whose victim was a child—in some states 17—regardless of whether the offense was serious or not, regardless of how long ago or how offense-free since, regardless of whether or not the person has even ever gone abroad, regardless of anything, if that person is still on the registry and desires to obtain or to keep a current passport, he will pay ten times more in ten years for that right and be subject to the restrictions of this legislation.
If the supporters of this bill want it to pass constitutional muster, they need to, at the very least, tailor it much more narrowly so that it applies only to those who have engaged in actual child trafficking or to those who have used their passports to go abroad and commit actual crimes against actual children there.
Otherwise, it is what virtually everything else is when the target group is registered sex offenders--another means by which discrimination is legitimized against an entire class of people who vary in every respect except being on a sex offender registry.