Altmire & Dent Sponsor Law to Strip Home-Grown Terrorists of Citizenship
Last week, four of the most moderate legislators in Congress introduced bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would update and add to existing federal law regarding the loss of nationality for American citizens who engage in terrorist activities directed against the United States.
Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Scott Brown (R-MA) and Pennsylvania Congressmen Charlie Dent (R-Lehigh) and Jason Altmire (D-Allegheny) introduced the Enemy Expatriation Act as an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Their push comes soon after the controversial drone strike of Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, which raised questions about the targeted killing of American citizens. Civil rights groups argued that this qualified as the execution of a U.S. citizen without due process. The bill seeks to clarify and avoid such legal questions for the future.
Congressman Dent noted, “When American citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki incite the violent overthrow of the United States and work within terrorist networks to coordinate attacks against the American people, it is appropriate that the federal government consider their actions a voluntary relinquishment of citizenship.”
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where our own citizens may engage in terrorism against our country,” Congressman Altmire said. “To help meet the challenges we are facing, and to protect our homeland, updates to our current laws are necessary as we continue to fight the global war on terror.”
But the proposal is drawing fire from civil rights advocates, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that the bill’s wording is too vague and could be used to target individuals critical of the government.
Christopher Anders, ACLU senior legislative counsel argues, “This is an extreme bill that would give government bureaucrats the O.K. to strip Americans of their citizenship, based on nothing more than suspicion. American citizenship is too precious to be left to the whims of government bureaucrats—and the bill’s sponsors are wrong to introduce a bill that tries to score political points by cheapening American citizenship.”
H.R. 3166 would add an eighth category to the existing seven that constitute acts deemed severe enough to lose American citizenship. The eighth category would be added for a person who “engages in hostilities or purposefully and materially supports hostilities against the United States.”
The State Department would determine whether a citizen has indeed deserved a renouncement of his citizenship under according to these conditions. The suspect can then appeal the determination to the State Department and then a federal district court.