Attorneys for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump asking the court to recognize the citizenship of an Alabama woman who left the U.S. to join ISIS and allow she and her young son to return to the United States.
The woman, Hoda Muthana, began pleading to come home earlier this week after spending more than four years with ISIS, during which she used her Twitter account to call for attacks on Americans. She's been married three times, widowed twice and has an 18-month-old son.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia at 9:27 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said she has no legal basis to claim citizenship and President Trump said she would not be allowed back into the United States.
In the lawsuit, attorneys ask the court to recognize Muthana's citizenship based on her birth on U.S. and allow she and her son to enter the country. Attorneys argue her son is also a U.S. citizen because he is her natural child.
"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," attorneys said in an emailed statement to AL.com. "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 lawsuit also asks the court to allow Ahmed Ali Muthana, her father, to send her money "to ensure the survival of his daughter and grandson, and enable them safe passage home, without subjecting himself to criminal liability." The lawsuit claims sending money to her from the United States would be considered aiding ISIS forces.
A photo shared by Hoda Muthana on her now-closed @ZumarulJannaTwitter account.
Ahmed Muthana is listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit as next friend of Hoda Muthana and her son. He is listed as a plaintiff because attorneys claim internet access and access to a working phone have made communications with Hoda Muthana difficult as she is believed to be inside an al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria.
Pompeo, Trump and Barr are defendants and sued in their officially capacities as Secretary of State, President and Attorney General, respectively.
"Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States," Pompeo said in a statement Wednesday.
Attorneys said those claims are based on her father's previous status as a Yemeni diplomat. Attorneys claim Muthana's father was terminated from his diplomatic position almost two months before she was born in New Jersey. However, the United States Mission to the United Nations, Host Country Affairs claims it was not notified of his termination as a diplomat until February 1995, the lawsuit claims.
The Constitution says children born to diplomats are not in the jurisdiction of the United States.
Muthana used a termination letter, dated September 1994, to get a passport for his daughter in 2005. She was able to renew her passport in 2014 before she went to ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, the lawsuit claims. The Muthana's received a letter in 2016 claiming her passport was not valid, citing the issue of when her father's status as a diplomat became inactive.
Attorneys are asking for expedited relief, citing President's Trump intent to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. They claim this will make U.S. military cooperation with Kurdish forces "diminished if even possible."
"Both counsel and Mr. Muthana have received communications from Ms. Muthana indicating their desire to return, despite being advised that a successful result of declaratory relief of citizenship will likely result in her being subject to criminal prosecution for alleged conduct for which she otherwise would not be charged, absent the relief sought in this complaint," the lawsuit states.
Attorneys also submitted a letter regarding her father's diplomat status, a copy of Hoda Muthana's birth certificate and a copy of her father's termination letter from September 1994. Various other letters and communication with U.S. authorities regarding her father's status were also attached as legal exhibits to the lawsuit.
Muthana has asked for sympathy from the United States, and says she regrets her decision to join ISIS in Syria.
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