Woman who joined ISIS, then denounced the group, fights to return to U.S.

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WASHINGTON – Federal lawmakers are now weighing in on the case of a young Alabama woman who joined ISIS and now wants to return to the U.S.  

Hoda Muthana’s lawyers say she’s an American citizen and should be allowed to return to the country to face the American justice system. 

In Washington, lawmakers disagree on how the case should be handled.

“When you go to war against your own country, you lose your citizenship,” says Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL). 

The Alabama Republican congressman wants Muthana blocked from re-entering the United States. 

The 24-year-old who left the country five years ago to join the terrorist group is now stuck in a Syrian refugee camp with her 18-month-old son. Muthana disavows ISIS and wants to return home. 

“She made the decision in her own life to put herself and her child in that refugee camp and I think she should live with those consequences,” adds Rep. Byrne. 

But Tasnim Motala, a fellow in the Thurgood Marshall Center at Howard University Law School says even Americans who join extremist groups have rights. 

“Just by going off and joining a foreign army or marrying into a foreign army doesn’t necessarily strip you of your citizenship,” Motala says, adding that it requires a court process, which has not yet happened in the Muthana case. 

And not everyone agrees Muthana should be prevented from returning to the U.S. 

Some lawmakers argue allowing Muthana to remain beyond the reach of the American system of justice sends the wrong message.

One of them is Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones, Byrne’s opponent in the state’s 2020 senate race. 

In a statement calling for Muthana to be prosecuted in the U.S., Jones said it would: “send a powerful message that any American who lends support to a terrorist organization will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.”

But it may never come to that. Right now the government is arguing Muthana was never a citizen based on her father’s status as a foreign diplomat when she was born.

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