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Lawmaker: Revoke Passports from U.S. Citizens Who Join ISIS

ISIS suicide bombers before an attack on Tikrit in January 2016. (ISIS photo)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) told PJM he would support revoking the passports of U.S. citizens who travel overseas to join ISIS so they are unable to return to U.S. soil.

“Yeah, I would be in favor of pulling the passport if they’ve joined our enemy, absolutely,” Jones told PJM during an exclusive interview.

Jones, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the intelligence community has the ability to track U.S. citizens who travel to the Middle East and the technology is “improving by the second.”

“I think our ability to better track those who are trying to create havoc in America is better today than it has ever been, so that would change and influence the debate of the issue you’re talking about today,” he said, referencing past efforts to seize the passports of citizens known to have joined terrorist groups such as ISIS.

In the last session of Congress, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced the Expatriate Terrorists Act, which would have revoked foreign fighters’ passports if it had been passed and signed into law.

The terrorist in the May 22 Manchester arena attack, Salman Abedi, was a native Briton who is believed to have traveled to Syria and returned to the UK shortly before the attack. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said restricting the re-entry of foreign fighters into the U.S. is not “the problem” that needs to be addressed right now.

“After the Manchester attack and the London Bridge attack, would you like to see some sort of action taken to stop foreign fighters from going to other countries and then returning to the United States, like maybe pulling their passport, for example, to stop those attacks?” Jayapal was asked during an interview on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t think that’s the problem. I think if you look at regulations around the world, what has been happening is exactly that – proposals to try and discriminate against people based on the region that they’re from, not on the individual who commits those acts,” Jayapal replied.

“Now, if we were to look at the individuals in the United States who have committed acts of violence and we were to create a crime database of those individuals vs. ‘undocumented immigrants’ who have done this, I would love to see some recognition that the problem has not been around how we restrict, you know, rights or focus on particular ISIS fighters,” she added. “The problem has been how we ensure that doesn’t turn into a stereotyping of all Muslims or all communities from that part of the world.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters in May that the flow of foreign fighters to the Islamic State that peaked at about 1,500 out-of-town volunteers per month in the caliphate’s heyday has gradually declined to fewer than 100 per month. Iraqi forces declared victory over ISIS in Mosul this week, and Syrian Democratic Forces fighters appear headed for victory over ISIS in Raqqa.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told PJM he is open to the idea of pulling passports from U.S. citizens who leave to train with ISIS as a way to prevent attacks from happening inside the United States.

“I think that would be a legitimate option to investigate and perhaps have that in our arsenal of tools. I would have to study it just a little bit more, but I’m inclined to say that’s a good idea,” he said during an interview on Capitol Hill. “I would want to research it just a little bit more, but I think there’s merit to that and we should look into it.”

In addition to a new passport law targeting foreign fighters, Lamborn said he would like to see “extreme vetting” of travelers seeking admission to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries that are covered under President Trump’s travel ban. Late last month, the Supreme Court allowed a limited ban to go into effect, with entrants requiring a family or work connection in the U.S., while agreeing to hear the case in October.