Ted Cruz Moves to Strip Citizenship of ISIL Fighters

Ted Cruz Moves to Strip Citizenship of ISIL Fighters

As predicted last week, it was only a matter of time before someone on the Hill dropped a bill to terminate the citizenship of Americans who are fighting with the Islamic State. Ted Cruz has taken the plunge, so it will probably get a little more attention than if some backbencher had adopted the cause. Press statement here; text of the bill here.

Either Cruz’s staff hasn’t done its homework here or this is counter-terror showboating pure and simple. If enacted thIs bill would have effect in approximately zero cases. The law amends the loss of nationality provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act to add fighting with or giving material support to listed terrorist organization as a ground for expatriation.

The problem: as per the Supreme Court, any expatriating conduct must be undertaken with the specific intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship. To strip an ISIL fighter under this amendment, the government would have to show not just that someone had fought with ISIL, but that he consciously intended to give up his citizenship by so doing. That would be impossible to show in the ordinary case. Al-Qaeda operative Adam Gadahn is the only notable case from the post-9/11 era in which it might work: in a jihadist youTube, he shredded his U.S. passport.

The Cruz bill is a repeat of Joe Lieberman’s stillborn effort in 2010 (name change: Lieberman’s “Terrorist Expatriation Act” is now Cruz’s “Expatriate Terrorist Act”), unpacked here. You can find an elaborated constitutional analysis from a recent Fordham Law Review symposium here.

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Yes, knowing, voluntary relinquishment.
And think of how far this might otherwise reach — “material support”. Even the criminal statute requires knowingly providing material support and there are still amibuities regarding such a standard.


And not to make light of this but as an American abroad I was kind of wondering about the issue of tax compliance. So, if all the conditions are met (join a terrorist group and inform State that one intends to relinquish US citizenship), does that mean the the individual would NOT have file all his back foreign bank accounts reports and tax returns, and prove that compliance going back 5 years by filing the final form 8854 with the US IRS.

Inquiring minds wants to know….:-)