Passport mark for sex offenders law challenged in court


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A judge in Northern California is set to hear arguments over whether to block a new federal law that requires sex offenders to have “unique identifiers” in their passports.

U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton has scheduled a hearing Wednesday in Oakland on a nonprofit group’s request for a preliminary injunction against the so-called International Megan’s Law, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February.

The law requires the government to add a mark to the passports of registered sex offenders and for foreign nations to be notified that some registrants intend to travel there.

The group, California Reform Sex Offender Laws, filed a lawsuit challenging the law a day after Obama’s approval.

It says a symbol on a passport identifying people as registered sex offenders violates their constitutional rights and puts them and others traveling with them in danger, including family members and business colleagues.

“For the first time in the history of the United States, American citizens will be forced by the government to label and stigmatize themselves on a document foundational to citizenship,” the lawsuit filed Feb. 8 reads.

The Department of Justice says the International Megan’s Law builds on existing laws and regulations to communicate with foreign governments when registered sex offenders plan to cross international borders. The law attempts to address cases where people evade such notifications by traveling to an intermediate country before going to their final destination, the DOJ said in court filings.

Additionally, a preliminary injunction would be premature because the State Department has yet to take technical or regulatory steps to implement the passport identifier provision, the DOJ said.

The purpose of the law is to prevent child sex trafficking and child sex tourism. But the lawsuit says the passport provision applies to anyone convicted of a sex offense involving a minor regardless of whether they have engaged in child sex trafficking or child sex tourism.