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  • IRLI Staff

ISIS Bride Not a Citizen


IRLI shows that children of diplomats, illegal aliens do not qualify.

WASHINGTON – In 2014, Hoda Muthana – a woman who had been born to Yemeni parents in New Jersey two decades before – joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and married an ISIS fighter in Syria. When he was killed, she married another ISIS fighter, who was also killed. Now Muthana and her young son are in a refugee camp in a part of Syria held by Kurdish forces.

In an attempt to secure her return to the United States, her father has sued Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other federal officials in federal district court in the District of Columbia, claiming that Muthana, because of her birth in New Jersey, is a United States citizen. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case arguing that she is not.

Citing the Vienna Convention, the government argues that Muthana’s Yemeni diplomat parents kept their diplomatic status until after Muthana’s birth. Since children born in the United States to parents with diplomatic status are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, they are not citizens at birth under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff, however, claims that his and his wife’s diplomatic status had ended before Muthana’s birth, and also that his wife had obtained “admission pending permanent residency” before that time.

In its brief, IRLI takes Plaintiff’s claim at face value. IRLI points out, though, that there is no admission status known as “admission pending permanent residency.” Noting that any “grant” of such an unreal status to Muthana’s mother was of no effect, and that Muthana’s father does not even claim he had lawful admission status when Muthana was born, IRLI concludes that Muthana’s parents, if they had lost their diplomatic status before her birth, actually were illegal aliens when she was born. And, under the controlling Supreme Court precedent United States v. Wong Kim Ark, decided in 1898, children born in the U.S. while their parents lacked permission to be in this country are not citizens at birth by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment.

“Amazingly, many people still assume that if you were born in this country you are a citizen, even if your parents were illegal aliens, or tourists,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “But the Supreme Court clearly held in Wong Kim Ark that this is not the case. This holding has slept in the law books for 121 years, and it is long past time for it to be correctly understood and applied. Here, it means that whether Muthana’s parents were diplomats or illegal aliens at her birth, she is not a U.S. citizen, and has no right to return to this country.”

The case is Muthana v. Pompeo, No. 1:19-cv-00445 (D.D.C.).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • blonergan@irli.org


IRLI is a supporting organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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