Metamora Films to Film Protest Against International Megan’s Law (IML)
Metamora Films heads to Northern California to film the peaceful protest at the U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, July 27, 2016 to show support against H.R.515, a bill that was signed by President Obama on February 8, 2016. The International Megan’s Law bill was first introduced by the U.S. Representative Chris Smith.
The international law authorizes the United States to alert foreign countries when a convicted registered child sex offender is entering their country. As part of that effort the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has expanded the efforts of the Angel Watch Center. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and bears the laborious title: “The International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders.”
You might be thinking that sounds like a great law…why protest against protecting children? Let me make this perfectly clear, we are all for protecting children globally. The protest, organized by California Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) and Janice Bellucci (President) states on their website that their mission statements includes:
- No sexual abuse is ever acceptable.
- Sex offense laws and policies should be based on sound research and common sense, not fear, panic or paranoia.
- Current laws and policies that paint all sex offenders with one broad brush are counter- productive, wasteful, and cause needless harm.
- The public sex offender registry and residency restriction laws do not protect children but instead ostracize and dehumanize individuals and their families.
- Money spent on purely punitive measures would be better used for prevention, healing, and rehabilitation.
Bellucci who filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief, maintains that as it is written the law will include people convicted of minor misdemeanor offenses such as “sexting” or public urination to be identified as a sex offender on their international travel document. The protest occurring on July 27th in Oakland, CA is in response to the expected motion to dismiss by the Northern District of California.
So why all the hype about IML? Again, it may seem like good law from the headlines: To Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders.” If we look deeper into what some news reporters are calling the new bill a “vindictive bill” such as the Los Angeles Times and urged President Obama to NOT to sign the bill. The statute (full text here) requires the secretary of state to affix a “unique identifier” on all passports issued to “covered sex offenders” — a “visual designation affixed to a conspicuous location on the passport indicating that the individual is a covered sex offender.” A “covered sex offender” is anyone previously convicted, at any point in his/her life, for a sex offense involving a minor. In addition, they add:
Sex offenders, sex traffickers, sexual predators — these terms are now routinely conflated by some of the same people who now apologize for waging the war on drugs and who favor efforts to “ban the box,” which would eliminate questions about convictions on employment applications. They would be wise to put down their torches and pitchforks, put on their thinking caps, and remember the value of punishment that fits the crime and allows perpetrators who no longer pose a threat to move on when their debt to society has been paid.
Bellucci was quoted saying, “Only Nazi Germany and Communist Russia have marked the passports of their citizens in this way and that was done decades ago,” she said, warning that “citizens of this nation should be afraid, very afraid.”
Washington Post reporter, David Post, in his recent article to show support against the IML, states: “It is fundamental to our notions of a free society that we do not punish people because we fear that they might commit a crime in the future, even if we would be safer if the government locked up all potential murderers, rapists, robbers and sex offenders. Disrupting the horrific international sex-trafficking industry is a laudable and important goal — but surely there is some line beyond which the government may not go in ostensible pursuit of that goal, and in my eyes this statute crosses it.” Post even included a comparison to the IML and Nazi Germany:
German Jews’ Passports Declared Invalid
On October 5, 1938, the Reich Ministry of the Interior invalidates all German passports held by Jews. Jews must surrender their old passports, which will become valid only after the letter “J” has been stamped on them.
The government required Jews to identify themselves in ways that would permanently separate them from the rest of the German population. In an August 1938 law, authorities decreed that by January 1, 1939, Jewish men and women bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin had to add “Israel” and “Sara,” respectively, to their given names. All German Jews were obliged to carry identity cards that indicated their heritage, and, in the autumn of 1938, all Jewish passports were stamped with an identifying red letter “J”. As Nazi leaders quickened their war preparations, antisemitic legislation in Germany and Austria paved the way for more radical persecution of Jews.
It seems to me that “public shaming” is on the rise in our broken criminal justice system and the IML is a great example of this. Not since Nazi Germany has any country marked the passports of their citizens. As Bellucci stated earlier, “citizens of this nation should be afraid.” I agree with her statement 100% because I can see the potential of how this type of law can spread to other marginal groups in our society such as Muslims and gays.
More opposition comes from Slate reporter, Leon Neyfakh, who adds his two-cents into the mix:
You might be thinking that sounds like a good idea—a wise precaution that promises to prevent confirmed perverts from victimizing more people. But like the domestic sex offender registry it’s based on, the law is premised on a profound and consequential misunderstanding of how sex crimes against minors are usually perpetrated. Though it’s understandable that parents are concerned about “stranger danger,” the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that the vast majority of sex abuse victims are attacked not by strangers hunting for prey, but by family members and other acquaintances.
I became aware of Free Range Kids and Lenore Skenazy a few years back when she let her 9-year-old ride the New York subway by himself. She’s been dubbed “America’s Worst Mom” by the media. I would disagree with that title. You can watch The National’s YouTube report about why free-range parenting is a good idea. It’s my opinion that we are currently living in an era that is full of paranoia, fear and anxiety, especially about our youth. Now I don’t disagree that there needs to be safety regarding children, but it seems to me that we are becoming a fear-based society at least in America. On February 4, 2016 Skenazy wrote an article on the IML urging Obama to veto the bill:
This vindictive bill has been wisely rejected numerous times in the past, but now it’s heading to President Obama’s desk. He should veto it. Why? Not just because it constitutes a kind of double jeopardy — citizens who did their time will be punished again, by not being allowed to travel. And not just because it singles out one just one group of people. (Murderers and drug dealers will NOT be branded this way.) Veto it because it will not actually do any good!
She added in her article a quote from the State Department: “We think the report is very misleading,” the State Department wrote. “Starting with the title, ‘Passports Issued to Thousands of Registered Sex Offenders,’ we are concerned that it conveys more ‘shock value’ than factual accuracy.”
Many warn that the IML establishes a terrifying precedent, opening the way to the official branding of other categories of undesirables, including Boston Review reporter, Judith Levine. She also added an enlightening comment about criminologists who study how people desist from crime. They say, “the key to staying legit, says one persuasive school of criminal re-integration, is that the wrongdoer acknowledge the harm he has done, yet understand his crimes as the bad acts of a good person. Rather than remind him over and over that he is an irredeemable pervert—as these laws do—he must be able to move past that identity and reclaim everything else he is: father, friend, cook, computer technician, veteran, voter, traveler.” Well said… A comment posted by ‘Harvey’ on her article was also in agreement: “I just want to thank Judith Levine and Boston Review for continuing to fight this important, if highly unpopular, fight. I’ve noticed her publishing several good articles on these themes. Future generations will look back on the sex offender panic of the late 20th and early 21st centuries (and beyond?) as a stain on our nation’s history, but hopefully Levine will be recognized for her good work in opposition.”
There are arguments on both sides. There’s tons of articles that can be read regarding IML. Below, I’ve included additional news articles and blogs about the IML to assist you in understanding all the facts. This blog post was intended to briefly highlight the opposition and does not contain all the facts and statistics. You may disagree with my opposition, and that’s okay. Metamora Films stands with the reporters, organizations, individuals, families and many others that oppose this new law that facilitates preemptive action against all of these ex-offenders — without considering the specifics of their crimes — with the intent enabling officials of foreign countries to take “actions that they deem appropriate to ensure public safety. As the Florida Action Committee stated on their report, “At best, this will involve denying qualifying offenders entry into their country of destination. At worst, the law will subject U.S. nationals to surveillance, harassment and entrapment by foreign law enforcement agencies with questionable justice systems.”
Metamora Films will post video clips and photos of the July 27th peaceful protest in Oakland later next week. There’s also plans to produce a short documentary of the event. Thank you for reading this article. Before you argue for or against the IML, please research all the facts.
– Matt Duhamel, Filmmaker/Host
The Opposition, A few examples:
Wall Street Journal, “Law Creating Passport Mark for Sex Offenders Faces First Challenge”
Huffington Post, “International Megan’s Law: America’s Global Embarrassment”
Boston Review, “Going Nowhere”
Free Range Kids, “Pres. Obama: Resist Signing the International Megan’s Law”
Al Jazeera America, “The long arm of sex offender laws”
The Proponents, A few examples:
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, “International Megan’s Law Now Law of the Land”
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, “Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery”
President Obama Signs IML
Congresswoman Wagner Speaks on International Megan’s Law