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Smith's Child Protection Act becomes law

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

On Friday, Dec. 7, President Barack Obama signed into law the Child Protection Act of 2012 (HR 6063), a bipartisan, bicameral bill. Authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the act will increase protection of children from sexual predators. Smith, along with other legislators, joined Obama at a signing ceremony at the White House.
HR 6063 provides law enforcement officials with additional resources to combat the growing threat of child pornography and online exploitation of children. In August, the House passed the bill by voice vote. The Senate passed Smith's bill by unanimous consent last month with the help of Senator John Cornyn and Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.
"Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing an average of 150 percent per year," Smith said. "We must do more to protect the most innocent among us - our children."
According to recent estimates, as many as 100,000 fugitive sex offenders are at large in the United States. Additionally, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports that Texas has the second largest number of registered sex offenders nationwide.
"I introduced the Child Protection Act to combat crimes against our children. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent and the President signed it into law. This bipartisan bill increases penalties for child pornography offenses that involve young children and strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims," Smith explained.
He continued, "At a time when Washington is known for partisanship, it is reassuring to see bipartisan legislation enacted. Times
Smith's colleague in the Senate agreed. "I'm pleased this bipartisan effort received wide support from both sides of the aisle in Congress. I'm also glad the president signed this measure into law quickly," Cornyn said. "This brings greater justice and protection to victims and allows law enforcement to take immediate steps to stop child predators and traffickers in their tracks. We 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 crime."
Ramifications of the new law extend to Texas, said Attorney General Gregg Abbott. "Protecting Texas children from online predators and child pornographers is my top priority," he noted. "With predators increasingly utilizing technology to prey upon children, it is critically important for law enforcement to gain new tools in our battle to protect Texas children. Thanks to Rep. Smith and Senator Cornyn that battle got a little easier when the President signed the Child Protection Act."
HR 6063 increases the maximum penalties from 10 to 20 years for child pornography offenses that involve prepubescent children or children under the age of 12. The bill allows federal judges to issue a protective orders if it is determined that a child victim or witness is being harassed or intimidated. Courts can now impose criminal penalties for violation of a protective order.
United States Marshals now have limited subpoena authority to locate and apprehend fugitive sex offenders.
The Child Protection Act also reauthorizes for five years the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, a national network of investigators who have arrested more than 30,000 individuals involved in child exploitation since 1998.
Smith and Wasserman-Schultz introduced the Child Protection Act in June. After becoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 2011, Smith identified enacting legislation to better protect children from online predators as a top priority. HR 6063 is one of the most significant bipartisan bills enacted this year.