Our leadership may distrust or despise certain people, but it cannot strip them of their citizenship involuntarily. Murderers, child molesters, and tax evaders are subject to criminal punishment, not denationalization.
Yet with the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, informally known as “Patriot II,” this basic rule is under attack. The draft legislation, the Justice Department’s proposed sequel to the 2001 USA Patriot Act, was recently made public after being leaked to the Center for Public Integrity. The bill would go well beyond its predecessor in threatening essential civil liberties.
Among Patriot II’s most worrying provisions are those affecting citizenship. Section 501 of the bill, deceptively titled “Expatriation of Terrorists,” would provide for the presumptive denationalization of American citizens who support the activities of any organization that the executive branch has deemed “terrorist.” While it is already illegal to provide material support to such groups, even for their lawful activities, such support is considered grounds only for criminal prosecution, not for the loss of citizenship.
By permitting denationalization based on a person’s illegal activities, the Patriot II bill attempts to push the legal rules back toward a time in which Ashcroft and his ilk would feel at home: the McCarthy era.
This article raises a lot of problems with this new legislation that anyone who values their status as a U.S. citizen should be aware of. Go read it now and be ready to contact your congressmen to express your concerns if the need should arise.