Legislation recently introduced into the U.S. congress which would strip U.S. citizenship from Americans who went abroad and joined ISIS in order to engage in jihad came before the full senate for a vote on Thursday, Sept. 18.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the sponsor of the bipartisan bill, reminded members of the senate that estimates of the numbers of Americans currently in Syria or Iraq fighting for ISIS “range from ‘about a dozen’ according to one Pentagon spokesman, to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s reassertion of about a hundred Americans fights with ISIS in this week’s Armed Services Committee hearing.”
Cruz asked the full senate for unanimous consent to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act or ETA of 2014.
But Democrat Mazie Hirono, senator from Hawaii, rose to vote against passing the ETA. The reason Hirono gave is that the bill had not been vetted by the Judiciary Committee, and given that ETA deals with the important issue of stripping U.S. citizenship from Americans, it was premature to approve the proposed Act.
Cruz made two points in response, one temporal and one substantive. First, the senate was about to go into recess so that members could go back to their states for the campaign season. This means that the legislation will not be approved, if at all, for many months.
The second point Cruz made is that while the idea of stripping U.S. citizenship is a serious constitutional matter, it is one which has long been deemed constitutional and applied against American citizens who choose to fight for an enemy country against the United States. What the ETA does is simply extend what has long been a weapon in the arsenal for protecting American citizens from violent traitors. It extends the mechanism to also apply to those who are fighting with non-state enemies, such as ISIS.