The family of a woman who left the US to join ISIS is now suing President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Attorney General William Barr to prove that she is an American citizen and has the right to return home.
Hoda Muthana secretly traveled from her home in Alabama to Syria when she was 19, and BuzzFeed News exclusively profiled her journey to radicalism in 2015. Now 24 and the mother of a toddler, Muthana has fled ISIS, and she told the Guardian on Sunday she regrets her ignorance about the terrorist group. She wants to return home, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday, and she's prepared to surrender to authorities for criminal prosecution if she does.
The lawsuit was filed by Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America on behalf of her father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, who is a naturalized US citizen. Since his daughter was born in the US, she is a citizen — and so is her child, according to the law center's complaint.
"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," a statement from the law center said.
In spite of Muthana's actions, the center said it took the case because it wants to protect Americans' rights to citizenship.
"Citizenship is a core right under the Constitution, and once recognized should not be able to be unilaterally revoked by tweet — no matter how egregious the intervening conduct may be," the center said.
While Muthana and her son remain in Syria at a Kurdish refugee camp, her family wants to help her make travel arrangements to the US. But Trump and Pompeo have denied that she's an American citizen and claim she will not be allowed entry into the country.
Muthana was born in New Jersey in 1994, her family previously told BuzzFeed News, and their lawyer released a copy of her birth certificate.
Muthana's father had previously held diplomatic status because he represented Yemen in the United Nations. Children born to foreign diplomats in the US do not automatically receive US citizenship, but a 2005 letter provided by Muthana's family shows US officials acknowledged her father's diplomatic privileges ended about two months before she was born.
With that documentation, Muthana received a US passport in 2005, and she successfully renewed it in 2014.
But in 2016, after Muthana had fled to Syria and became the widow of an ISIS fighter, her parents received a letter informing them that her US passport was being revoked, citing a delay in notification of the end of her father's diplomatic service.
That argument doesn't hold up, the family's attorneys said in their complaint, and in any case, using an administrative action to strip someone of their citizenship threatens the rights of all US citizens.
"Stripping US citizens of their citizenship is one of the most serious steps the US government can take," the complaint said, "and in the case of birthright citizens, is both unconstitutional and impermissible."