Victory! DC Circuit Rules ‘ISIS Bride’ Not a U.S. Citizen

Press Releases

January 21, 2021

Decision consistent with argument in IRLI brief

WASHINGTON—Yesterday the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the family of the so-called “ISIS bride,” Hoda Muthana, who joined the terrorist group in Syria, then sought to return to America where she was born.

In an attempt to secure Muthana’s return to the United States, her father, a former UN diplomat from Yemen, sued Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and other federal officials in federal district court in the District of Columbia. He claimed that his daughter, because of her birth in New Jersey, is a United States citizen. The district court ruled in favor of the government, finding that she is not a citizen.

Yesterday, the DC Circuit upheld the district court, finding that Muthana’s father was a diplomat when she was born, and thus she did not gain U.S. citizenship at birth under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The court also held that it could not confer citizenship as a matter of equity when the laws of the United States did not confer it.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that Muthana is not a U.S. citizen.

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. The plaintiff, however, claimed 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.

While taking the Plaintiff’s claim at face value, IRLI pointed out 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 did not even claim he had lawful admission status when Muthana was born.

“This is an important decision that brings some much-needed clarity to the question of what constitutes U.S. citizenship,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Despite the clear precedent in Wong Kim Ark, a perception has taken hold in America that citizenship is owed to the children of illegal aliens, tourists, and diplomats, among others. That is not the case, and the decision here affirms this fact in regard to diplomats.”

The case is Muthana v. Pompeo, No. 19-5362 (D.C. Cir.).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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