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The Senate could move to strip Americans fighting alongside Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) of their U.S. citizenship under a new bill set to be introduced next week by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), according to a source close to the senator’s office.
With intelligence reports indicating that up to 100 Americans could be fighting with ISIL and similar terror groups in the Middle East, Cruz and other lawmakers have warned that current U.S. regulations do not prevent these American passport holders from slipping back into the United States, where they would pose a significant terror risk.
Cruz intends to file the Expatriate Terrorist Act (E.T.A.) on Monday when the Senate is called back into session following its summer recess, according to the Cruz source.
The bill would effectively strip those Americans proved to be fighting alongside ISIL of their U.S. citizenship and block them from reentering the country. The legislation resembles a similar House bill by Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.) that also seeks to stem the flow of American ISIL fighters back into the country.
Any U.S. citizen who would travel to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside ISIL is repudiating their rights and citizenship under U.S. law, Cruz told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement.
“Americans who choose to go to Syria or Iraq to fight with vicious ISIS terrorists are party to a terrorist organization committing horrific acts of violence, including beheading innocent American journalists who they have captured,” Cruz said. “There can be no clearer renunciation of their citizenship in the United States, and we need to do everything we can to preempt any attempt on their part to re-enter our country and carry out further attacks on American civilians.”
The E.T.A. would tighten and update existing regulations by which a U.S. citizen abandons their citizenship, according to a preview of the bill.
The Cruz bill amends this statute to include those who become a member of, fight for, or provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, particularly ones attempting to wage terror attacks on the United States and its assets.
U.S. authorities would have to provide evidence proving a U.S. citizen has fought with ISIL.
“Provided the requirements of due process are observed, if a U.S. Citizen undertakes these acts with the intent of supplanting his U.S. Citizenship with loyalty to a terrorist organization, that person can be deemed to have forfeited their right to be a United States citizen and return to the United States,” according to a readout of Cruz’s new bill.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said earlier this week that up to 100 Americans are known to be fighting alongside ISIL in the Middle East. The Pentagon later clarified that only about a dozen Americans are fighting with the group in Syria, while about 100 U.S. citizens are in the region fighting with other terror groups.
Some congressional insiders working on the issue of American fighters abroad have warned that it could be very tough for U.S. authorities to prove their cases against these suspected militants upon their return to America.
It is “completely unrealistic” that the FBI and other U.S. intelligence sources have the ability to fully track and compile evidence on these individuals, one senior aide told the Free Beacon earlier this week.
“Think of all the FBI resources needed to follow each suspect once they return to the U.S.,” the source said. “Countless hours of agent time diverted just to piece together what they were doing over there and how much of a threat they pose back home. Why wouldn’t we try to preemptively address it instead?”
The House bill by Wolf seeks to do exactly this.
Like Cruz’s legislation, the House measure aims to stop American jihadists from using their passports to return to America.
Additionally, Wolf’s measure would imprison for up to 20 years any Americans who travel to Syria or other radical hotbeds and severely restrict movement to such areas.