Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz Wants to Give the President Even More Power

The GOP Senator is pushing the Expatriate Terrorist Act, which would allow the president to strip Americans of their citizenship. Really bad idea.


Ted Cruz
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz doesn't trust Barack Obama to protect Americans against Ebola, defeat the Islamic State, oversee the IRS, or revamp the health insurance system. He decries the expansion of federal power Obama has brought about. But Cruz wants to give him another power by letting him decide that some Americans will no longer be Americans.

That's the implication of the senator's Expatriate Terrorist Act, which would let the government go to court to revoke the citizenship of anyone who joins or aids a foreign terrorist group that targets Americans. Cruz thinks this step is necessary to prevent citizens who leave to fight for the Islamic State from returning to carry out "unspeakable acts of terror here at home."

It's not necessary, in strict point of fact. Federal law already makes it a crime to murder Americans and to provide material assistance to terrorist organizations. So anyone who becomes a terrorist for the Islamic State can be arrested and prosecuted and incarcerated for a long time.

John Walker Lindh, who gained infamy as "the American Taliban," is doing a 20-year sentence for fighting alongside our enemies in Afghanistan. As it happens, he remains a U.S. citizen. More recently, Americans have been arrested while trying to leave the U.S. to fight with al-Qaida.

But letting the federal government deprive Americans of their nationality is something that should give pause to anyone acquainted with the Constitution or history. In the bitter aftermath of World War II, a California native named Iva Toguri D'Aquino, accused of being the notorious "Tokyo Rose," was convicted of treason for doing propaganda broadcasts for Japan, sentenced to 10 years in prison and stripped of her citizenship.

Her conviction, historian Edwin Reischauer wrote, was the product of a public "under the influence of traditional racial prejudices and far from free of the anti-Japanese hatreds of the recent war." In 1977, President Gerald Ford acknowledged the injustice by pardoning D'Aquino and restoring her citizenship.

Cruz, who clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist and has argued cases before the Supreme Court, is well-acquainted with the Constitution. So he is guilty of deception, not ignorance, when he approvingly quotes Hillary Clinton's statement that working with foreign terrorist groups can be punished in this way because "United States citizenship is a privilege. It is not a right."

Actually, it is a right, affirmed in the Fourteenth Amendment, which says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the states in which they reside." It does not say "unless…" The amendment provides no conditions under which a citizen may be deprived of citizenship.

In 1967, the Supreme Court barred the government from disinheriting one of its own for voting in an election in Israel. "We reject the idea," wrote Justice Hugo Black, that "Congress has any general power, express or implied, to take away an American citizen's citizenship without his assent."

Experts from across the political spectrum reject the legality of what Cruz wants to do. John Bellinger III, legal adviser for the National Security Council and the State Department under President George W. Bush, told me, "It would be very difficult under our Constitution to strip a U.S. national of citizenship; the government would have to show the U.S. national specifically intended to give up his citizenship."

University of Houston law professor Emily Berman, former counsel to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, concurs. "It is unconstitutional to take away an American's citizenship without her consent—citizenship may be voluntarily relinquished, but not unilaterally stripped by the federal government," she said.

Powers of this kind are susceptible to abuse. "Material support" for terrorist groups, the Supreme Court has said, can include those who engage in mere speech—even, notes the American Civil Liberties Union, "if their work is intended to promote peaceful, lawful objectives." Citizens wouldn't have to fire AK-47s to come under banishment.

As for those who do fire AK-47s, representatives of the U.S. government may kill them in Iraq or arrest them at a port of entry. Cruz's measure offers no additional deterrent or protection.

Giving additional power to the president is something to be done rarely, reluctantly and only when there is no good alternative. On any day he's not pushing the Expatriate Terrorist Act, Ted Cruz would tell you that.

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  1. Chapman writing about Cruz.


  2. Why strip their citizenship when you can drone process them instead? Get with the times Ted.

  3. Look, if an American citizen is convicted, by due process (including the right to demand a jury) of some crime of disloyalty – treason, desertion, helping terrorists, etc. – I would hope that Congress could specify that the punishment would include loss of citizenship (though the Supreme Court’s precedents make this doubtful – even for the capital crime of desertion, loss of citizenship can be cruel and unusual, and the 14th amendment could be read to protect even the worst criminals from loss of citizenship).

    The problem if bypassing normal judicial channels to take away the citizenship of someone accused of a crime.

    As for the case of the purported “Tokyo Rose,” and so on, that’s a problem with the underlying conviction and all its consequences, including imprisonment. It’s not as if Toguri’s treatment would have been OK if only she’d “only” been given imprisonment as a punishment – if she was unjustly convicted, then both imprisonment *and* loss of citizenship would have been unjust.

    1. Trop v. Dulles – loss of citizenship as cruel and unusual punishment:


    2. Stripping citizenship of people who actually go to work for an enemy government seems appropriate (and one could argue that being a terrorist fighting the US falls under that, I suppose). Beyond that I think it is unnecessary and dangerous. What does it actually accomplish? You can still lock up or execute citizens for treason. And taking people’s citizenship as a form of punishment would be a bad precedent, I think. If that happens, how long do you think it would be before people start calling for taking citizenship from, for example, owners of corporations that reincorporate in other countries.

      1. I would say that for the more serious felonies involving disloyalty, adding loss of citizenship to a lengthy term of imprisonment would be a proportional punishment.

        Of course, moving one’s corporation to another country shouldn’t be a felony at all, or even a misdemeanor, or even the occasion for a penaltax.

        1. I just don’t think it should be on the table as a punishment at all. Citizenship isn’t a reward or a privilege (or it shouldn’t be).
          Now, if you take up arms against the US or join a foreign government, I’d say loss of citizenship is appropriate, but really because you have effectively renounced your citizenship, not because of any additional crimes you may have committed.

          1. Agreed. There is no power that can’t be abused. Making someone a non-person by stripping their citizenship is too tempting.

            1. On further reflection, I figure that, if the person gets a specific term of imprisonment, that contemplates the possibility of rehabilitation once he gets out of prison.

              But if he leaves prison as a stateless person, that would seem to interfere with rehabilitation.

              Therefore, a prison sentence should generally be sufficient, and after he gets out of the Big House, give him a chance to rehabilitate himself as a productive citizen, rather than strip him of citizenship.

              1. Citizenship can be an appropriate reward for those who apply for it and follow the rules to gain it.

            2. Unperson.

  4. I bet that fuckstain Cruz would oppose trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for murder in Dallas though. It would be a nice change of venue where there is a death penalty certainty.


    2. Whatever, turd.

    3. The giant frozen Shitburg is about to hit the Shitliner. PB you should grab one of those shit deck chairs to use as a shit raft. It’s get pretty cold out there on the ocean of shit.

    4. Boy PB, there sure are a lot of libertarians that get irritated when you start criticizing Republicans. They are, after all, the grand ol’ party of liberty.

    5. Fuck off, nitwit.

  5. Cruz is Mr. Haney from Green Acres, sure as shit.

    1. Lol. Yeah, could be.

      1. So whose socks are you two originals ?

      2. So whose socks are you two originals ?

  6. And what are you going to do with someone born here after stripping citizenship — deport them to Antartica?

    1. The Pacific Ocean. Drop them hand cuffed from a blackhawk where that trash whirlpool is I would guess.

      1. In that case, stripping them of citizenship is rather unnecessary, I would think.

        1. Well you can’t throw Americans into the trash vortex. Non-US citizens are real people, so it’s cool.

          1. Aren’t.
            /blast my proof reading, or lack of it.

    2. We have this magical place at the far end of Cuba called Gitmo. It’s where the Constitution goes when it needs a well-deserved break.

    3. Exactly. That’s why all of this is so silly to begin with. I doubt anyone joining a terrorist organization could really care less about the status of his citizenship.

    4. “Moronie deported to Sweden: Claims he’s not from there.”

  7. No one suggested this for Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. A citizen has a right to due process, and every opportunity to know that his criminal actions could lead to life imprisonment or execution. There’s nothing else to say about it.

  8. Why would a terrorist, one hell bent on attacking America in some fashion, give a shit about whether or not his citizenship was revoked?

    This seems like a stupid argument.

  9. IIRC, International Law doesn’t allow countries to strip the citizenship from someone who doesn’t have citizenship somewhere else, so the reality is these people would still be considered US citizens by most of the world anyways.

  10. Even someone who is right on a lot of issues can be really wrong on others. I understand the rationale, but any act that grants government more power is a really bad idea.

    1. I like a lot of things Senator Cruz has to say, but this idea of revoking citizenship isn’t one of them. He’s just flat out wrong.

      Besides…stripping someone of his citizenship or revoking his passport is not going to prevent anyone from returning to this country to wage war on us. If foreign nationals can sneak across the border, so can traitorous Americans.

      1. traitorous

        Hmm. Treasonous?

        1. they dont need to sneak in, the worst of the worst are already in D.C….. our idiotstick countrymen voted for them

  11. Three reactions:

    A) This is some scary shit, suggesting that the President should be allowed to unilaterally strip someone of their citizenship.

    B) What exactly would this allow that we can’t already do? Joining or aiding a terrorist group is already a crime, as has been pointed out.

    C) This is pretty clearly against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is arguably part of international law, and which the US formally backed. “Article 15.
    (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

    1. The Declaration isn’t a treaty so it has no actual legal impact as it is. And, if it was, an Act of Congress can invalidate treaty obligations.

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  13. What about the terrorists waging a war on women, the poor, and minorities? Why can’t we strip them of their citizenship?

    /end prog

    1. That idiot progeny of the Kennedy clan was suggesting something of the sort for those who don’t buy his Gaia religion.
      When he wasn’t fighting the windmills off the Kennedy compound, that is.

    2. This, and it reminds me that Cruz is a statist idiot fuck, no better for liberty than than the many statist fucks that team blue features.

  14. So he is guilty of deception, not ignorance, when he approvingly quotes Hillary Clinton’s statement that working with foreign terrorist groups can be punished in this way because “United States citizenship is a privilege. It is not a right.”

    Actually, it is a right,…

    Oh sure, it’s a right – just so long as you pay your Obamacare breathing tax, peon.

  15. Blatantly dishonest title. It allows the courts to do it, not the president. I think this is a great idea. Why on earth should we allow muslim terrorists to be citizens when they hate America and its values

    1. It allows the courts to do it, not the president.

      Is this to happen before or after they’ve been tried for their crimes?

      Why on earth should we allow muslim terrorists to be citizens when they hate America and its values

      Why should we allow blacks, latinos, asians, Jews, Catholics, feminists, liberals, or even libertarians to be citizens when “they hate America and its values”? Hell! Why should we even allow them to live?

      1. I mean can’t we just send them to the camps and fire up the ovens?

    2. no in conjunction with the 2012NDAA it allows ANY government official to do it with the mere accusation that you MAY be a terrorist

    3. Some things to ponder:

      The executive branch has the power to designate groups as Terrorist Groups.

      Membership of designated groups is a de facto designation as Terrorist

      If the courts judge in accordance with a law stating that terrorists must have their citizen stripped, whose fault is it?

    4. Perhaps when they decide Ozark terrorists shouldn’t be citizens…it’s a very slippery slope bro..

  16. Damn Ted, you really let the mask slip here.

    Guess that calculated appeal to warhawk socon’s really backfired here, didn’t it Ted? He just wants an end-run around having to give US citizens who aid enemies their right to due process.

    Despite any decent views on other things, this is a fatal error for me.

    1. he is what he is, a friend of liberty he is not

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  18. Imagine losing one’s citizenship blocking anyone from coming into and living in America. Join the millions, get a drivers license and vote.

  19. Of course, that comment is if that little issue of constitutionality is set aside.

  20. Constitutional concerns aside (I think the law is unconstitutional), I don’t really understand the point of such a law.

    If the person did actually commit “unspeakable acts of terror” and was in government custody, he’d be locked away for life… so what would be the point of stripping his citizenship? It’s not like he’s enjoying any benefits of citizenship…

    Finally, I don’t think the persons against whom this law would be directed would care to have their citizenship stripped so it’s not much of a punishment.

  21. Goverment says what legal and illegal. Who’s a terrorist and who isn’t a terrorist so Mr.Cruz better think long and hard about this. This can and will be used on anyone who is not a lover of the wielder of goverment power.

  22. Cruz should be ashamed of himself and he will be punished by a lack of support from libertarians who might otherwise have approved of his fiscal conservatism.

  23. The ISIS(L)-minded would likely view this as some sort of anti-Western civilization trophy would they not?

  24. Cruz is an idiot and by his comment of citizenship being a privilege is dangerous

    The Free Dictionary.com defines a right as “something that is due to a person or governmental body by law, tradition, or nature.”

    The Free Dictionary.com, a privilege is “a special benefit, exemption from a duty, or immunity from penalty, given to a particular person, a group or a class of people.”

    Any gov’t official that believes US citizenship is a privilege believes the gov’t has the right to lord this over every american citizen. In other words, as long as they “comply” with gov’t whims, they will continue to receive this “special benefit.” Cruz is not a small gov’t guy, this is proof, he knows what he’s saying here, he just hopes others are too dumb to realize it. This type of thinking is dangerous for this country.

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