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Civil Rights Group Opposes Law Identifying Sex Offenders On Passports

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- A California civil rights group filed a lawsuit in San Francisco on Tuesday challenging a bill signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this week that will require sex offenders to be identified on their passports.

Known as the International Megan's Law, it aims to prevent child exploitation and other sexual crimes by notifying destination countries when registered sex offenders are traveling into their country.

The law will require the U.S. State Department to add a unique identifier to the passports of registered sex offenders.

But California Reform Sex Offenders Law (CARSOL) president Janice Bellucci, who filed a complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief Monday, 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.

In some states sexting by a minor is illegal because a minor who sends explicit images of another minor is considered to be producing and distributing child pornography and risks being prosecuted.

The lawsuit was filed against Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, among others, on the grounds that the law violates the Constitution's First and Fifth Amendments, as well as the Ex Post Facto Clause.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of four citizens registered to the national sex offender list, including two who reside in San Francisco, alleges that, "For the first time in the history of this nation, the United States Government will publicly stigmatize a disfavored minority group using a document foundational to citizenship: their United States passport."

Bellucci said the U.S. has never before used passports to differentiate among its citizens.

Bellucci argues in the lawsuit, that a passport symbol that identifies an individual as a registered sex offender could place that person as well as others traveling with them at significant risk of physical harm.

The White House said the law will also authorize the Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Targeting Center and the Department of Homeland Security's Angel Watch Center to send and receive notifications to or from foreign countries regarding where registered sex offenders are travelling internationally.

Operation Angel Watch is a computer system developed by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement to identify and stop child predators who attempt to travel internationally to countries known as destinations for child sex tourism.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter

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