Australia Moves Toward Stripping Citizenship from Terrorists

By Dan Cadman on May 29, 2015

News reports tell us that the Land Down Under is preparing to amend its laws to enable the government to strip Australian citizenship from "dual nationals" who engage in terrorist acts, or who join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS).

This is a step in the right direction, but perhaps two steps short of what needs to be done. The government apparently backed off its initial plan to remove citizenship from others as well, including children born in Australia of immigrant parents, when those children engage in terror or terrorist support. Aussie Prime Minister Abbott, channeling his inner progressive in walking back the original outlines, said "The changes will be consistent with our international legal obligation not to leave a person stateless."

They should have stuck with the original plan. Statelessness be damned. Individuals who take the affirmative step to distance themselves from their home, their community, their culture, and their country by joining enemies who would destroy all those things deserve no consideration from the state whatsoever.

But let me make clear that I offer my observations without intent to criticize — in fact, I put them forward with a modicum of embarrassment because what Australia is poised to do is far more than we have done. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation to strip citizenship from terrorists, but the bill went nowhere due to Democratic objections. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) also introduced legislation to prohibit travel with the intent to join ISIS and other terror groups; that legislation also went nowhere.

Shockingly, our FBI director even asserted that nothing could be done about American citizens who travel to the Middle East, join ISIS, and later return home. This is only true if the government chooses to do nothing; there are a multiplicity of ways to legally act against such people, given the resolve.

Some might be taken aback by the suggestion that native-born children of immigrants to Australia might have been stripped of their citizenship had the authorities stuck to their guns. If I am bothered by it, it is only because it is inherently too limiting. Why only them? Why not anyone of any generation who engages in the conduct under scrutiny?

What it comes down to is this: Joining a terrorist group bent on destroying Western nations and values, and which systematically engages in murder and genocide of ethnic and religious minorities, is a very concrete form of treason. Under the law of most countries — including most emphatically the United States — treason not only carries harsh criminal penalties (including death, depending on the circumstances), it also carries with it the corollary right on the part of the state to sever the ties of citizenship that bind such an individual to the country. After all, taking that step formally and officially is merely the final act of steps put into motion by the individual himself when turning his back on his country in favor of its enemies.

With that in mind, it's disturbing in the extreme that our legislators cannot even take the step other countries see as logical and necessary for their survival. It is also a slap in the face to the men and women who have donned uniforms and made sacrifices, often including life and limb, fighting terror in far-flung lands, and who exemplify the best of citizenship and service to the nation.