Democrats Block Bill to Stop Americans Who Join ISIS from Returning to US
Similar measure had bipartisan support in 2010
September 18, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, today asked for unanimous consent on his bill, the Expatriate Terrorist Act of 2014, that would strip Americans who join ISIS of their citizenship.
Senator Hirono, D-Hawaii, objected.
In his remarks offering the bill, Sen. Cruz discussed the rising threat of ISIS, his concerns with President Obama’s plans to arm the Free Syrian Army, and the support then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once gave to legislation, introduced in 2010 by former Senators Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown, that closely mirrors the ETA of 2014.
Specifically Sen. Cruz said:
“All too often the Obama Administration proposals threaten to become embroiled in the midst of these political crises as, for example, they have made training and equipping the Free Syrian Army a cornerstone of their plan to fight ISIS. But just this week the leader of the Free Syrian Army reportedly announced that he would not participate in the fight against ISIS unless we pledged to join in his fight against the Syrian dictator Bashir al Assad.
“While this is certainly understandable from his perspective, resolving the Syrian civil war is not our mission nor the job of the military, and we should not be making the Free Syrian Army —whose focus is Assad—central to the American plan of defending our nation against the jihadist threat of ISIS.
“The administration’s ISIS policy is also marked by internal confusion that further demonstrates a lack of focus on what should be our clear mission. The President has repeatedly insisted that there will be no American ‘boots on the ground’ in Iraq and Syria as he wants any action to be led by others—even while he increases US personnel in a country by a few hundred here and a few hundred there, and earlier this week his top general, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that there were circumstances under which he would change his advice to the President to recommending ground troops, a suggestion that was subsequently echoed by Chief of Staff of the Army and even Vice President Biden.
“The American people need and deserve greater clarity on what exactly our military mission is, and how what the President envisions relates to the advice his Department of Defense is giving him.
“The disconnect between what we know and what we do not know about the Americans fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria is equally concerning. Estimates range from ‘about a dozen’ according to one Pentagon spokesman, to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s reassertion of about a hundred Americans fighting with ISIS in this week’s Armed Services Committee hearing.
“Either way, Secretary Hagel agreed with my characterization of the risks posed that Americans will take U.S. passports, after fighting with ISIS, after training with ISIS, to come back And commit unspeakable acts of terror here at home. Secretary Hagel agreed that risk was significant.
“It seems only prudent to address this threat, and I am therefore going to be asking for unanimous consent for the Expatriate Terrorist Act or ETA of 2014, which will make fighting for ISIS, taking up arms against the United States, an affirmative renunciation of American citizenship—and I should note here that the ETA is very similar to the bipartisan legislation proposed by Senators Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown in 2010 to address Americans who were joining al Qaida overseas, notably the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki, or here at home, like Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to blow up a car bomb in Times Square.
“The ETA thus has applicability beyond the immediate threat of ISIS, it is an important adjustment to our existing laws governing the renunciation of citizenship to reflect the threat posed by non-nation terrorist groups. As then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said concerning the Lieberman-Brown legislation, ‘United States citizenship is a privilege. It is not a right. People who are serving foreign powers — or in this case, foreign terrorists — are clearly in violation…of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.’
“The Expatriate Terrorist Act of 2014 is only a very modest change to current law, it’s one small step in a larger and necessary effort to re-focus our ISIS strategy that I urge President Obama to consider immediately.”