President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is barring a US-born former Islamic State propagandist, Hoda Muthana from returning home, making the highly unusual case that she is not a US citizen.
Trump’s refusal to admit 24-year-old Hoda Muthana comes just as he is pressing Europeans to repatriate their own Islamic State fighters and will likely face legal challenges, with US citizenship generally extremely difficult to lose.
Trump said on Twitter he has “instructed” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the country” — a break with usual US protocol not to comment on individuals’ immigration issues.
“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” Pompeo said in a terse statement.
“She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States,” he said, urging US citizens not to travel to Syria.
She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States,” he said, urging US citizens not to travel to Syria.
Pompeo did not elaborate on the legal rationale for not considering the Alabama native, who traveled to Syria on her US passport, a US citizen or suggest where she might go instead.
But in one loophole that could boost the government case, Muthana’s father had been a diplomat from Yemen — and children of diplomats are not automatically granted citizenship.
Muthana’s lawyer, Hassan Shilby, showed a birth certificate that demonstrated she was born in New Jersey in 1994 and said her father had ceased being a diplomat “months and months” before her birth.
“She is a US citizen. She had a valid passport. She may have broken the law and, if she has, she’s willing to pay the price,” Shilby told AFP at his office in Tampa.
He said Muthana wanted due process and was willing to go to prison if convicted.
“We cannot get to a point where we simply strip citizenship from those who break the law. That’s not what America is about. We have one of the greatest legal systems in the world, and we have to abide by it.”
Just this weekend, Trump took to Twitter to chastise European allies who have not taken back hundreds of Islamic State prisoners caught in Syria, where Trump plans to withdraw US troops.
Comparatively few Americans have embraced radical Islam, with the Counter Extremism Project at George Washington University identifying 64 who went to join the Islamic State group in Syria or Iraq.
Muthana, raised in a strict household in Hoover, Alabama, said she was brainwashed by social media messages and headed to Syria without her parents’ knowledge in 2014.
Shortly afterward, Muthana posted on Twitter a picture of herself and three other women who appeared to torch their Western passports, including an American one.
She went on to post vivid calls on social media to kill Americans, glorifying the ruthless extremist group that for a time ruled vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.
But with the Islamic State group down to its last stretch of land, Muthana has said she has renounced extremism and wants to return home with her toddler son, born to one of her three jihadist husbands.
“To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly,” she said in a handwritten note to her lawyer.
The US decision on Muthana comes amid rising debate in Europe on the nationality of extremists. Britain recently revoked the citizenship of Shamina Begum, who similarly traveled to Syria and wants to return to her country of birth.