The New York Times is lamenting how the State Department is not letting a “jihadi bride” back into the U.S. now that she is on the losing side of her treason. But there is another point that everyone is missing from the case of Hoda Muthana: What is government doing to ensure that children of diplomats are not automatically, illegally granted citizenship?
Hoda Muthana is the daughter of one of the many millions of Middle Eastern immigrants we’ve admitted in recent decades who have developed radical jihadist views. She left this country in 2014, married a total of three ISIS fighters (her first two husbands were killed) and even posted a video of burning her U.S. passport. She tweeted messages calling for spilling the blood of veterans on Memorial Day. Now that the caliphate collapsed, she is begging to come back in and is claiming she has changed her views.
Why are children of diplomats being granted American citizen documents?
The presumption in the media when the case first broke was that she was a traditional American citizen, being born in the U.S. to legal permanent resident parents. But the State Department is contending that she was never a legitimate American citizen because she was born to a Yemeni diplomat to the U.N. living here on a special diplomatic visa, such as a G-2 visa.
While the details of this particular case are still murky, it raises a general concern about the thousands of kids born on our soil to diplomats of all stripes from all regions in the world. Even according to those who hold the misguided view that birthright citizenship is not only in the 14th Amendment but applies to people who violate our sovereignty and reside here without permission, that does not extend to children of diplomats. There is no dispute about that. Yet, as the Center for Immigration Studies reported several years ago, the government has been so lax in enforcing this that “children born to foreign diplomats on U.S. soil [are] receiving U.S. birth certificates and Social Security numbers (SSNs) — effectively becoming U.S. citizens.”
In extensive research, Jon Feere of the Center for Immigration Studies found that the lack of enforcement by the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department, and several other agencies has allowed all children
of foreign diplomats to become de facto citizens, with birth certificates and Social Security cards. While the issuance of a birth certificate and Social Security card doesn’t necessarily make someone a citizen, it has the effect of granting him de facto citizenship until the agencies clamp down on this practice.
This is an especially perverse outcome since foreign diplomats and their families are granted diplomatic immunity from prosecution of many laws. Illegally granting these citizenship, against the consent of the citizenry, makes them super-citizens — enjoying the rights of America and free from prosecution for many types of law-breaking.
In this case, if the State Department is correct that Muthana was born here when her father was a diplomat, then how did she hold a U.S. passport? Presumably, because hospitals are given no guidance in handing out birth certificates to anyone born here under any circumstance, and she was granted an official birth certificate and American SSN, which treated her as a citizen from day one.
Dan Cadman, a former ICE agent and fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies, expressed concern in an email to CR that this case of de facto stolen citizenship only came to light because of the terrorism angle:
As this case shows, there are no substantive procedural safeguards to prevent the children of diplomats from being vested with the trappings of citizenship, up to and including passports and Social Security cards, because key agencies of government such as the State Department and Social Security Administration don’t meaningfully interact with state vital statistics bureaus. It took the scrutiny of major international media organizations focusing on this three-time jihadi bride before our own government inquired deeply enough to reveal the facts — else she could have spent the remainder of her life living as a citizen.
Another example of why unqualified birthright citizenship is wrong
The jihadi bride case is just one more proof that the entire idea of birthright citizenship for those here illegally was not a deliberate decision born from the consensus understanding of the Wong Kim Ark decision, somehow applying also to those who break into our country, as Justice Brennan suggested in his infamous footnote in Plyler v. Doe.
The federal government has never deliberately decided to grant automatic citizenship to children born to illegal aliens. No national discussion occurred to apply the Wong case to illegal aliens, as indicated in the footnote of the Plyler case. And as I proved conclusively, nobody ever thought to actively grant such a right because it would have contradicted our immigration laws.
It likely evolved from sheer laziness and practicality. Given that all children born to legal immigrants were granted birthright citizenship before the influx of illegal aliens — either as a matter of practice or resulting from the 1898 court decision — the relevant agencies never bothered to enforce verification and give the hospitals forms that required one parent to show his or her Social Security card. It was easier to grant anyone born in an American hospital citizenship, especially because illegal immigration en masse did not occur until the mid-twentieth century.
According to Professor John Eastman of Chapman University School of Law, the passport office up until the late 1960s did not presume birth on U.S. soil meant you were entitled to a passport. “If you were born on US soil that wasn’t sufficient to prove your citizenship to get a passport, you also had to show the status of your parents when you were born on US soil,” said the legal scholar on a podcast in November. Indeed there is no evidence we ever handed out citizenship to children of guest workers during the 1920s.
It was only after the problem became so pervasive and conservatives began calling attention to it in the early 1990s that liberals retroactively created a convoluted legal rationale based on the Brennan’s footnote and a misunderstanding of the obscure Wong case to defeat popular and commonsense efforts to end the practice.
The proof is in the pudding: We all agree children of diplomats are excluded from citizenship, yet there is no enforcement mechanism to stop them other than the honor system.
So why doesn’t our government care to safeguard the crown jewel of our national citizenship? From our earliest days, we’ve always had a vetting process and a probationary period to see if we want to grant citizenship to a given family. The notion that anyone born on our soil, even those here illegally or on non-immigrant visas, which did not require strong vetting or an oath of allegiance, could somehow force their children upon us is absurd. The crafters of the 14th Amendment explained that “subject to the jurisdiction of” meant those who owed all “allegiance” to America.
This case is a superlative example of stolen sovereignty, because the U.N. is full of diplomats from nations who have disdain for our values. The idea that if Muthana’s father was on a diplomatic visa simply because we house the U.N. on our soil, that should entitle his kid to citizenship, even if Muthana’s CAIR lawyer is correct in asserting that she was born after her father was no longer a diplomat, is absurd. If her father did not have a green card at the time of her birth, she should not be a citizen. As Cadman says, “Whether or not her father violated the conditions of his admission or not, he was admitted as a diplomat, and accredited as such, and under the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and international law, he was never ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the United States and thus could not confer citizenship upon his child simply by virtue of birth here.”
We will have to wait for the details on this case as the lawsuit goes on, but it should force action in general to protect our citizenship from people who clearly are not entitled to it, beginning with children of diplomats and eventually including those who willfully steal our sovereignty as illegal immigrants.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.