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Trump administration works to strip convicted terrorists of citizenship

16

It seems fairly cut and dry that anyone that takes up arms against the United States loses their citizenship. You make that choice when you turn traitor and wage warfare against the U.S. Why would you want citizenship in a country you are seeking to destroy? They abandoned their citizenship to wage war in the cause of the caliphate, let them live in the Islamic State (whatever hellhole they find themselves in). That said, those that take up arms against the U.S. are the left’s favorite kind of U.S. citizen, so this will be a battle. They should a firing squad not a Democrat welcome wagon.

Trump officials pushing to strip convicted terrorists of citizenship

Critics fear a dangerous new front in how the legal system treats naturalized U.S. citizens convicted of terrorism offenses.

By Josh Gersein, Politico, June 8, 2019:

John Walker Lindh walked out of prison last month and returned to American life, having served 17 years for providing support to the Taliban.

But another American who pleaded guilty in a high-profile terrorism case after the Sept. 11 attacks is facing a tougher path to freedom.

Like Lindh, Iyman Faris received a 20-year sentence at a time when the country was still on edge about further terror attacks. And the Ohio-based trucker admitted to involvement in a plot that sounded like al-Qaida’s most spectacular since 9/11 — an attempt to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge by using gas torches to cut the cables holding it up.

Faris, however, was not born in the United States, and the Trump administration has a controversial plan for him as he’s about to be released: strip him of his U.S. citizenship and kick him out of the country. Or perhaps keep him behind bars indefinitely.

Critics say the current move to revoke the al-Qaida sleeper agent’s American citizenship highlights the limited progress the U.S. has made in the past two decades in prison-based deradicalization efforts. They also say it could create a dangerous new front in how the legal system treats U.S. citizens convicted of terrorism offenses.

“It’s part and parcel of the rest of the immigration policy which is just to demonize people from other countries,” said Joshua Dratel, a Manhattan defense attorney. “It’s an aggressive move.”

How does one demonize a jihadi who plotted to to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge by using gas torches to cut the cables holding it up?

In the absence of a life sentence or capital punishment, native-born Americans like Lindh seem all but certain to walk the streets in the U.S. again after serving their sentences, even if they’re unrepentant. But naturalized citizens like the Pakistani-born Faris are at risk of being deported over their allegiance to al-Qaida.

“The Supreme Court has said there’s no excommunication when it comes to citizenship,” said Case Western Reserve University law professor Andra Robertson. “There’s only two ways to lose your citizenship: one is when a person voluntarily gives it up and two is when there’s some fraud or illegality in its procurement … If you’re a native-born citizen, obviously you didn’t commit fraud to get your citizenship, so only a naturalized citizen can lose their citizenship involuntarily.”

Just one day after Lindh was released from a federal prison in California last month, Justice Department lawyers filed a motion with a federal judge in Illinois, urging her to void Faris’ U.S. citizenship. The government’s key argument was that by linking up with al-Qaida between 2000 and 2003, Faris raised doubt that he was sincere when he pledged allegiance to the U.S. as part of his naturalization process in 1999.

“These facts establish Defendant affiliated with al Qaeda, a prohibited organization, within five years after naturalizing (indeed, within one year of naturalizing). That affiliation, in turn, is prima facie evidence Defendant was not attached to the principles of the Constitution or well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States, which are required to naturalize,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

In 2003, Faris came under suspicion by the FBI and was questioned for weeks, first at a hotel outside Columbus, Ohio, and then at a safe house at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. He eventually admitted that he met with Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders in Afghanistan, researched the use of ultralight aircraft for the group and explored the possibility of using gas-fired wire cutters in an effort to collapse the iconic bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan.

In May of that year, Faris appeared in a sealed courtroom in Alexandria and pleaded guilty to two felony counts involving material support to a terrorist organization. He later tried to back out of the plea, saying that he made up stories in order to sell a book. But a judge rejected Faris’ move and sentenced him to the maximum under the plea deal: 20 years. With standard “good time” credit for federal prisoners, Faris is currently set for release in December 2020.

In recent court filings, Faris — who turned 50 on Tuesday — has argued that he never would have pleaded guilty if he knew he could lose his U.S. citizenship as a result of his admissions. Neither his lawyer nor the judge who took the guilty plea advised him of that possibility, Faris says.

Faris also contends that the move to strip him of his citizenship is directly tied to his refusal to agree to assist prosecutors once his sentence is up.

“The United States brought [this] immigration action in response to Faris’s refusal to cooperate with federal authorities upon his release,” he wrote in a court filing last year.

Faris’ admitted refusal to cooperate appears to have extended through a recent deposition in his denaturalization case. Government lawyers say he took the Fifth Amendment in response to 176 of 390 questions he was asked.

Faris’ attorney in the denaturalization case, Thomas Durkin, said the government is trying to get a second chance to punish his client.

“We think it’s a mean-spirited attempt at further punishment and violates his original plea agreement with the government,” Durkin said.

The Chicago-based lawyer also sees the denaturalization effort signaling a panic across the government about convicts with Taliban, al-Qaida or terrorist ties emerging from prison after serving their time.

“There’s of course concern like with John Walker Lindh. Everyone is like, ‘Oh my God, now what are we going to do?’” Durkin said. “It’s 20 years later. These guys are starting to get out.”
A car departs a prison

A person reported to be “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh is seen leaving the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex by a white car early in the morning on May 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana. | John Sommers II/Getty Images

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on Faris’ case, but when officials first moved in 2017 to denaturalize him they defended the move. “The U.S. government is dedicated to strengthening the security of our nation and preventing the exploitation of our nation’s immigration system by those who would do harm to our country,” said Justice official Chad Readler, now a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

As POLITICO first reported, U.S. District Court Judge Staci Yandle last year turned down the government’s bid for a quick victory in the denaturalization case against Faris.

“American citizenship is precious, and the government carries a heavy burden of proof when attempting to divest a naturalized citizen of his or her citizenship,” Yandle wrote. “The Government’s arguments fall short of meeting its burden of clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence.”

Now, however, Faris faces a more formidable challenge focused on his al-Qaida affiliation.

The government also accuses Faris of fraud for entering the U.S. in 1994 on another man’s passport and for claiming in an asylum application that he entered the U.S. in Buffalo, when he actually flew into JFK Airport in New York, and by claiming he traveled through Canada.

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