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Woman Who Left US to Join ISIS Can't Return

Hoda Muthana's family plans to fight Trump administration's decision
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2019 1:02 AM CST
Hoda Muthana grew up in Alabama before joining ISIS in Syria.   (Hoda Muthana/Attorney Hassan Shibly via AP)

(Newser) – A woman who grew up in Alabama, then left to join ISIS at age 20, will not be allowed back into the US, President Trump said Wednesday in a tweet. "I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!" Trump wrote. Pompeo had said earlier in the day that Muthana is not a US citizen, NBC reports, and has no legal right to return. The 24-year-old had issued a plea to American officials to be allowed back to stand trial. Muthana married three ISIS fighters while in Syria—two of them were killed—and has an 18-month-old son. She says she began moving away from extremism in 2016. Now being held in the al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria by Kurdish forces, Muthana has said that she "deeply regrets" her decision to join ISIS and wants only to come home.

The outcome could turn on whether Muthana is a citizen. Her family plans to take the administration to court, CNN reports. Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer and Cornell University professor, says her case is "not clear-cut." Her family says she was born in New Jersey in 1994, months after her father left his post as a Yemeni diplomat. That could make her a citizen. But if the government convinces a court that Muthana's father still had diplomatic status, that would be bad news for her, as children of diplomats are not automatically granted citizenship even if born in the US. In a similar case, per the BBC, Britain has stripped Shamima Begum, a teenager being held in the same refugee camp as Muthana, of her citizenship. Trump has called for Britain and other European nations to let ISIS fighters return to their nations and put them on trial. A Muthana family lawyer says Trump "now is trying to play games when it comes to American citizens." (More on the Begum case here.)

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