NYT: ISIS bride Hoda Muthana might be a U.S. citizen after all

Maybe not the best idea for the president to boast on Twitter about how he kept Hoda Muthana out if, in fact, he’s not going to succeed at keeping her out.


Ed noted earlier the announcement from Mike Pompeo that, contrary to popular belief, Muthana isn’t a U.S. citizen and therefore has no claim to be re-admitted to the United States. But Pompeo didn’t detail his reasoning. Was he claiming that Muthana had somehow denaturalized herself by joining ISIS? Remember, she had a U.S. passport, and normally U.S. citizens can’t constructively renounce their citizenship through their actions. They need to do it formally, which Muthana seems never to have done.

What Pompeo’s arguing, I think, is that Muthana was never technically a natural-born American citizen because her father was a diplomat here on assignment from Yemen when his wife gave birth. Under U.S. immigration law, children of diplomats born on American soil remain subject to the jurisdiction of their home countries and therefore don’t enjoy birthright citizenship under the Fourteenth Amendment. If Pompeo’s right then Muthana’s a Yemeni citizen. She’s their problem, not ours.

But is he right? An NYT reporter has been investigating.

So Muthana’s father was a diplomat, then his diplomatic status ended, and then a month later his wife gave birth. I’m tempted to ask “Were he and his family in the country legally or had they overstayed their visa by the time Muthana was born?”, but as we well know, illegal status is no bar to birthright citizenship. The question for a court, I suppose, is whether it matters that Muthana’s family had gained admission to the U.S. for diplomatic reasons even though their diplomatic status had lapsed by her birth date. Were they still subject to the jurisdiction of Yemen if they were here on a diplomatic visa, irrespective or whether her father was still employed as a diplomat?

The real mystery isn’t whether Muthana is or isn’t a U.S. citizen, it’s why the feds are trying to bar her from the country instead of letting her come home and then charging her with material support for terrorism. That statute is broad, covering any property or “service” provided with the intent that they be used for certain specified terrorist offenses. Alan Dershowitz, normally a safe bet to take the civil libertarian side in a matter like this, told the New York Post that Muthana is in sufficiently dire legal jeopardy that he’d advise her to rethink her plans to return. Even if all she did was tweet and send emails, he claimed, it’d be a “close call” on whether she could be charged. At least one other defense lawyer with experience in terrorist cases agreed that Muthana could be charged with material support for terrorism.

And yet Trump and Pompeo don’t want her back. Why? Callimachi might have the answer to this too: She claims, citing sources, that “the US may not have enough to successfully charge her” and that the citizenship battle is “an easy way to offload her.” Maybe they figure that, although conviction is probable if not certain, she’s unlikely to get a stiff sentence and will be free to roam the U.S. soon enough. Better to try to keep her out and let Yemen and/or the Kurds who have her detained in Syria worry about her.

Exit question via Stephen “redsteeze” Miller: Which Democratic candidate will be first to tweet their indignation at the effort to bar Muthana from returning?