By Matthew Lee and Jay Reeves / Associated Press
WASHINGTON — An Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State group in Syria won’t be allowed to return to the United States with her toddler son because she is not an American citizen, the U.S. said Wednesday. Her lawyer is challenging that claim.
In a brief statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave no details as to how the administration made their determination.
“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States,” he said. “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.”
But Hassan Shibly, a lawyer for the woman, insisted Muthana was born in the United States and had a valid passport before she joined the Islamic State in 2014.
He says she has renounced the terrorist group and wants to come home to protect her 18-month-old son regardless of the legal consequences.
“She’s an American. Americans break the law,” said Shibly, a lawyer with the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “When people break the law, we have a legal system to handle those kinds of situations to hold people accountable, and that’s all she’s asking for.”
Muthana and her son are now in a refugee camp in Syria, along with others who fled the remnants of the Islamic State.
Shibly said that the administration argues that she didn’t qualify for citizenship because her father was a Yemeni diplomat. But the lawyer said her father had not had diplomatic status “for months” before her birth in Hackensack, New Jersey.
He released a copy of the woman’s birth certificate, issued two months after her birth in October 1994, to support his claim.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday on Twitter that he was behind the decision to deny her entry, tweeting that “I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!”
Muthana’s lawyer said she was “just a stupid, naive, young dumb woman,” when she became enamored of Islamic State, believing it was an organization that protected Muslims.
The announcement came a day after Britain said that it was stripping the citizenship of Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old who left the country in 2015 with two friends to join the Islamic State and recently gave birth in a refugee camp.
Shibly, based in Tampa, Florida, said he intends to file a legal challenge to the government’s decision to deny her entry to the country.