World / Crime & Legal

Alabama woman who joined Islamic State in Syria sues to return to U.S.

Pompeo says she is not a citizen because her father was a diplomat when she was born


The father of an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State group in Syria filed suit against the Trump administration Thursday in an effort to allow her return to the United States.

Ahmed Ali Muthana argues in the suit, filed in federal court in Washington, that his 24-year-old daughter, Hoda Muthana, is an American citizen by birth and should be allowed to come back to the U.S. with her toddler son, the child of her late jihadi husband.

She is now in a Syrian refugee camp with the 18-month-old boy after fleeing the remnants of the Islamic State.

Her lawyers said she expects to be charged with providing material support to terrorism if she is allowed to return to the United States.

“Ms. Muthana has publicly acknowledged her actions and accepted full responsibility for those actions,” the lawyers said. “In Ms. Muthana’s words, she recognizes that she has ‘ruined’ her own life, but she does not want to ruin the life of her young child.”

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, under orders of President Donald Trump, said Wednesday that the young woman is not a citizen and will not be admitted back to the United States.

He said the diplomatic status of her father when she was born means she is not a U.S. citizen.

Pompeo did not outline the legal rationale but in an interview Thursday, asked if the key issue was that her father had been a diplomat, Pompeo told NBC’s “Today” show: “That’s right. She may have been born here. She is not a U.S. citizen, nor is she entitled to U.S. citizenship.”

In a separate interview with the Fox Business Network, Pompeo dismissed the “heart-strings” pitch in Muthana’s pleas to return home.

“This is a woman who inflicted enormous risk on American soldiers, on American citizens. She is a terrorist. She’s not coming back,” he said.

Muthana was born in 1994 in New Jersey to a father who had served as a diplomat from Yemen, according to her lawyer.

But the lawyer, Hassan Shibly, said her father had ended his diplomatic service “months” before she was born and she is a U.S. citizen.

Her family says she had a legitimate passport when she left the U.S. to join the Islamic State in Syria in 2014.

The Obama administration initially determined she was not a citizen and notified her family that it was revoking her passport in January 2016.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person born in the U.S. to an accredited foreign diplomatic officer is not subject to U.S. law and is not automatically considered a U.S. citizen at birth.

The United States grants citizenship to virtually everyone born on its soil under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment — ratified in 1868 after the Civil War and abolition of slavery.

The only significant exception is children of accredited foreign diplomats, as the 14th Amendment provides citizenship to everyone “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.

It is extremely difficult for the United States to strip a person of citizenship, a step taken by Britain in the case of homegrown jihadis.

Muthana, who remains in the custody of U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, furtively went to Syria in 2014, when the Islamic State group was carrying out a grisly campaign of beheadings and mass rape and turned to social media to praise the killings of Westerners.

Trump’s order on Muthana came even though he is pushing other Western countries to bring back hundreds of jihadis to prosecute at home as the United States prepares to withdraw troops from Syria.