Will there be any long-term civil rights ramifications of International Megan's Law?

From what I can gather, part of this new law seems to require that the U.S. ICE, FBI, and Marshall’s take proactive steps to notify foreign countries of intended travel plans by convicted sex offenders. Most notably, it also requires the State Department to emblazon the passports of the same with a conspicuous mark, a “Scarlet Letter,” if you will.

I’m curious as to the civil rights ramifications of this in the future. I’d particularly like to read thoughts by any legal scholars we have here, especially as it was challenged the day after it was signed into law by an organization in California. (cite, PDF warning).

It seems to apply to felony and misdemeanor offenses alike, making no distinction among the kinds of offenses. Public urinators and teenage sexters will be marked the same as convicted child sex tourists.

I was under the assumption that people who are still under correctional supervision (prisoners, parolees, and probationers) were ineligible for passports from the get-go, so isn’t this specifically targeting people who have already “done their time,” so to speak?

You have to click back to the full text of the bill and go to “Definitions”. Your link is only to the summary, and lacks the “definitions” part that is always part of a bill:

Sexting and public urination could qualify as offenses against minors, depending on the target and/or bystanders.

It’s being challenged in a federal court in California by an organization from Florida. The only thing that seems odd is that (according to the complaint) individuals who are no longer required to register in the jurisdictions where they were convicted will still have the proverbial “scarlet letter” on their passports. As far as I can tell, the National Sex Offender Registry includes only offenders who are currently required to register in one or more jurisdictions. I am open to correction on that point.

GFactor and I jointly authored a SDStaff article follow up on the issue and were unable to find any states in which a conviction for public urination created any serious risk of sex offender registration.

See here.

Apparently you found one where it’s plausible if unlikely.

Whichever one of the five that does not require repeat offenses, that is.

I think one of the problems with public urination as a “registrable offense” is that the offense of public urination, in general, is not a registrable offense, but that people caught urinating in public often get charged with “indecent exposure”, which is a registrable offense, and they plead guilty.

I don’t see the civil rights or any other issues with this. I think it’s pretty offensive to ACTUAL oppressed minorities of all kinds to describe sex offenders as a “disfavored minority group” (as that law suit does). It seems a pretty common sense way to help prevent sex tourism, that doesn’t sacrifice anyone’s fundamental rights.

That’s a good argument to make sure undeserving people DON’T end up on the sex offender register, not to stop common sense laws in case undeserving people are caught up in them.

Civil rights are not limited to “actual oppressed minorities.” And sex offenders are unquestionably a “disfavored minority group” in any case. It’s ridiculous to argue otherwise. The question is not whether they are a disfavored minority, but whether laws singling them out appropriately balance the government’s aims against their rights.

And the right to travel being a fundamental right, I have issues with our own government trying to use backdoor methods to infringe on that right (backdoor meaning, they want other governments to see the mark and deport the individuals—a de facto travel ban). I’m under the assumption that prisoners, probationers, and parolees are ineligible for passports, and certainly aren’t allowed to travel internationally without permission, so this seems like it would primarily effect those who have already completed their sentences—that’s the part that rubs me the wrong way.

The right to travel within the country is fundamental. Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. 168 (1869). The right to travel internationally is not, or at least does not get more than rational basis scrutiny. Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1 (1965).

Right, so the U.S. authorities can restrict travel to certain countries that they have a beef with. Would it be constitutional to enact a general ban on leaving the country, however?

But people who are convicted (or even accused) of a crime have even that right taken away all the time. That’s how the justice system works in a liberal democracy, if you are convicted of a crime beyond all reasonable doubt, by a jury of your peers, you have freedoms taken away as punishment.

Also note the law DOESN’T take away the right to travel, it just puts a note on the sex offenders passport saying confirming that they have in fact been convicted of a crime of sexual nature, so the country they are travelling to is aware of that fact.

I don’t get why anyone would have a problem with this. Yes there are dumb self defeating sex offender laws out there, but this isn’t one of them. It tackles a real problem (sex tourism) in a way that doesn’t restrict anyone’s rights.

And that punishment is seldom permanent. The right to travel is restored once the person completes the court ordered sentence.

Is the likely outcome going to be more or less freedom in their travels?

Because someone should not face risk of serious bodily harm from a foreign country with a less than stellar record on human rights over a violation of US law for which they have already paid the price. If U.S. customs and immigration sees the mark, they might give the person more scrutiny (perhaps being more interested in the contents of a digital camera or something), but ultimately send him on his way, or at worst (in the case of a foreigner), deport him. If the authorities in some fundamentalist country see this, whether at the border or within the country, are you willing to guarantee that deportation is the worst-case scenario?

Probably not. But note that it’s not really the right to leave the country that Congress and the executive can strip away, but rather the right to come back. In theory, you are free to leave the country even if there is a travel ban; you just can’t reenter it if you do.

Yes, but we don’t really have any cases concerning what happens when the government puts a note in your passport, so the only analogy is to other cases concerning the government’s authority to burden the right to travel. In any event, this is likely to serve as a de facto ban on travel for the individuals involved. Would you let convicted sex offenders enter your country?

For the record, I don’t really have a problem with the law in principle. As I said, I only have one concern:

But the fact that their a sex offender hasn’t changed, so all this law does is stop hiding that fact.

This is key point here. Yes countries are (rightly) pretty leery about letting foreign sex offenders visit. All this law does is stops hiding that fact from those countries the convicted sex offenders are visiting. Which is the current situation.