Bipartisanship leads to Child Protection Act of 2012
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
By reaching across their respective aisles, Texas legislators have been instrumental is the passage of a soon-to-be-signed new federal law that ensures increased protection for children from sexual predators.
During a late night legislative session on Monday, Nov. 26, the United States Senate passed the Child Protection Act of 2012, introduced by Texas Senator John Cornyn and Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.
Additionally, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith sponsored the Act's counterpart - HR 6063 - in the House of Representatives. Smith's colleagues passed the bill by voice vote in August. With the Senate's approval, the Child Protection Act will now go to the desk of President Barack Obama for signature.
The bipartisan legislation safeguards young victims of child pornography, sexual abuse and sex trafficking by strengthening the law enforcement officers' ability to protect victims and witnesses and apprehend perpetrators.
The Child Protection Act includes several important anti-human trafficking provisions authored by Cornyn. The provisions were originally included in the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2011, which was introduced by Cornyn and Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.
"We must provide law enforcement with every tool they need to crack down on the most vile criminals - child sex predators and traffickers - and protect the innocent young people who fall victim to these heinous crimes. This is an issue we can all agree on, and I'm pleased Congress has passed this important measure in a bipartisan fashion," Cornyn said.
"I hope the President will sign this bill swiftly to bring greater justice and protection to victims and allow law enforcement to take immediate steps to stop child predators and traffickers in their tracks," he added.
Concurring with his fellow Texan, Smith noted, "We must do more to protect the most innocent among us - our children. Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing an average of 150 percent per year."
According to recent estimates, there are as many as 100,000 fugitive sex offenders in the US. Additionally, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that Texas has the second largest number of registered sex offenders nationwide.
"This bipartisan bill increases penalties for child pornography offenses that involve young children and strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims," Smith explained. "The Child Protection Act ensures that paperwork does not stand in the way of the apprehension of dangerous criminals. I urge the President to sign this legislation and help better protect America's children from sexual predators."
Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida joined Smith in introducing the Child Protection Act earlier this year.
Provisions in the Child Protection Act increase the maximum penalties from 10 to 20 years for possession of child pornography offenses that involve children ages 12 or under.
The legislation also requires federal judges to issue a protective order if a court determines that a child victim or witness is being harassed or intimidated. The court is empowered to impose criminal penalties for violation of a protective order.
The act also gives the US Marshals limited subpoena authority to locate and apprehend fugitive sex offenders. US Marshals service will now be able to issue administrative subpoenas to obtain time-sensitive documents during investigations of fugitive sex offenders.
Finally, the Child Protection Act also reauthorizes a five-year funding cycle for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces. These national task forces are comprised of investigators who have arrested more than 30,000 individuals involved in child exploitation since 1998. Task force members also train executive and judicial officials how to deal with cases of child sexual abuse.