State Dept. restricts passports for sex offenders

State Dept. restricts passports for sex offenders
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The State Department is threatening to take away the passports of certain sex offenders.

Federal law requires registered sex offenders to display a unique mark on their passports to notify officials in foreign governments when they travel abroad. Passports that do not contain the mark could be confiscated, the State Department said Thursday.

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The rule is linked to a law signed in February by President Obama that aims to crack down on sex trafficking. Government officials say it will put foreign officials on the lookout for sex offenders.

But the move has drawn backlash from sex offenders, who argue it is paramount to a “scarlet letter.”

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed earlier this year by anonymous sex offenders but left room for the challenge to proceed after the State Department issued the final rule.

The department will also deny passports to tax evaders who owe “seriously delinquent tax debt,” as well as people who do not provide an accurate Social Security number.

The rule goes into effect immediately.

The State Department skipped the public comment period under the “good cause” provision that allows for regulations of particular importance that serve the public interest to be published more quickly.

"The Department believes that public comment on this rulemaking would be unnecessary, impractical, and contrary to the public interest,” it wrote.