Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday that Hoda Muthana, the wife of an Islamic State fighter who filed suit to force the U.S. government to accept her and her 18-month-old son as American citizens, does not have a legitimate claim of citizenship and will not be allowed into the United States.
“She’s a non-citizen terrorist; she has no legal basis for a claim of U.S. citizenship,” Pompeo said on Sunday.
“She’s not coming back to the United States to create the risk that someday she’d return to the battlefield and continue to put at risk American people, American kids, American boys and girls that were sent to help defeat ISIS – she put them at risk, she’s not a U.S. citizen, she’s not coming back,” he declared.
“There’s litigation ongoing,” Pompeo acknowledged. “Here’s what I can tell you: We have a strong legal basis for our claim she’s not a citizen, and she’s not coming back.”
Muthana, 24, was born in the United States but her father Ahmed Ali Muthana was a diplomatic representative from Yemen, so the Trump administration argues she did not have birthright citizenship because the 14th Amendment specifically excludes children born to foreign diplomatic personnel on U.S. soil.
Muthana’s lawsuit holds that her father was discharged from diplomatic service before she was born in October 1994 and her mother had permanent residency status at the time of her birth. The administration points to documents that show her father did not officially lose his diplomatic status until 1995, but Muthana’s lawyers say they have a notice from the U.S. mission to the United Nations that states his diplomatic service to Yemen ended in September 1994.
This notice was apparently signed by a U.N. official, so the court will be asked to decide if it can stand as official U.S. documentation. The chaotic nature of Yemen may make it difficult to obtain a definitive statement from its government about when the elder Muthana lost his diplomatic credentials.
Muthana allegedly became radicalized online and traveled to Syria and joined the Islamic State in 2014, where she married an ISIS jihadi who was subsequently killed while fighting for the terror state. Her passport was revoked by the Obama administration in 2016. Muthana and her son are currently living in a refugee camp in Syria.
Hoda Muthana claims to have been “brainwashed” by ISIS at a time when she was “naive, angry, and arrogant.”
“During my years in Syria, I would see and experience a way of life and the terrible effects of war, which changed me. Seeing bloodshed up close changed me. Motherhood changed me. Seeing friends, children and the men I married dying changed me. Seeing how different a society could be compared to the beloved America I was born and raised into changed me,” she wrote in a letter publicized by her lawyer last week.
If the Trump administration is obliged by a court ruling to recognized Muthana’s citizenship, it could respond by charging her with treason, although the Islamic State’s legal status as a non-state terrorist organization – even when it controlled a large amount of Syrian and Iraqi territory and was collecting taxes from captive residents – might make that difficult.
Muthana said she is ready to “pay any debts she has to society,” although she evidently envisions this more as become a de-radicalization consultant and public speaker than serving time in prison.
Even if she is not charged with treason, she would probably be charged with providing material support to the Islamic State if the U.S. is forced to accept her return. The New York Post noted on Friday that Muthana was highly active online as a propagandist for the Islamic State, a detail left out of most mainstream media reports on her clash with the Trump administration. She actually married three ISIS jihadis, two of whom died in battle; the status of the third is unclear.
When she was living in Syria, Muthana used Twitter to urge American Muslims to launch brutal terrorist attacks on national holidays: “Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drive-bys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc day … Kill them.”