Hoda Muthana left Alabama to join the Islamic State (ISIS), marrying three fighters with the militant group after she said she was radicalized online.
Now she has an 18-month-old son and she wants to return to the U.S.
Shamima Begum, meanwhile, ran away from the U.K. to go to Syria and marry an ISIS fighter herself. She gave birth to a son last weekend, and now she, too, wants to return to the country from whence she came.
Both of them are so-called “ISIS brides” who have come up against governments that do not want them back — and that are following different approaches to citizenship that have frustrated their efforts at return.
READ MORE: British ISIS bride, 19, has baby in Syria — family
The U.K. government has foiled Begum’s wish to return there by revoking her citizenship.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid had the power to do that thanks to an amendment introduced to the British Nationality Act in 2014.
The amendment deemed that a person’s citizenship can be revoked if the individual “has conducted him or herself in a manner which is seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom, any of the islands, or any British overseas territory.”
WATCH: Feb. 17 — U.K. ISIS bride who had baby in Syria left ‘for sake of children’
That amendment also contained a caveat: there must be reasonable grounds for believing that the person can become a national of another country.
Here’s where the U.K. government could face a challenge, noted Devyani Prabhat, reader in law at the University of Bristol, for The Conversation.
Reports have suggested that Begum is a British-Bangladeshi, born in the U.K. So if her U.K. citizenship were stripped away, she might be able to claim Bangladeshi nationality.
WATCH: Dec. 4, 2017 — Conservative MP says returning ‘ISIS brides’ will raise kids to commit Jihad
However, Bangladesh has said Begum is not a citizen and won’t accept her in the country, The Guardian reported.
“The fact that Bangladesh says she has no claim to Bangladeshi citizenship now means that she is at real risk of statelessness,” Prabhat noted.
Begum’s family plans to challenge the decision, reported BBC News.
They can challenge the revocation before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, “where the focus will be on whether or not Bangladeshi nationality exists for a British-born person of Bangladeshi heritage,” Prabhat noted.
READ MORE: British teenager who joined Islamic State in Syria to lose U.K. citizenship
Whatever the outcome of Begum’s situation, revoking citizenship is a “weak” and “ineffective” policy, said Leah West, a former national security lawyer with Canada’s Department of Justice, now seeking a doctorate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law.
“It’s passing the buck,” she told Global News.
“These states are saying these young people were our citizens, they’ve perpetrated crimes against innocent civilians potentially or facilitated crimes against innocent civilians in other countries, now we’re giving them to someone else to deal with.”
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Hoda Muthana is suing the Trump administration over its denials that she’s an American citizen.
The U.S. isn’t moving to revoke her citizenship — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is denying she has any U.S. citizenship at all.
The administration has asserted this because it said Muthana’s father was serving as a Yemeni diplomat to the UN when she was born in New Jersey.
Kids born in the U.S. to foreign diplomats don’t receive birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
WATCH: American-born ISIS bride hopes to return to U.S.
The lawsuit argues that Muthana’s father ceased being a diplomat prior to her birth — one month prior, according to a family lawyer who spoke to Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times.
That same lawyer told the Times that Muthana’s father was asked to prove that he had been discharged from his post. Muthana subsequently received two passports from the U.S. government — one of them in 2014, which she used to travel abroad and join ISIS.
To receive a U.S. passport, you must be a citizen through birth or naturalization.
University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said in a blog post that this doesn’t necessarily mean the U.S. State Department determined conclusively that Muthana is a citizen.
“But it is deeply suggestive of the conclusion that Muthana’s father was, as a matter of law, no longer entitled to diplomatic immunity at the time of her birth, and so her birth on U.S. soil entitled her to birthright citizenship.”
Vladeck went on to note that U.S. citizenship can only be revoked in certain cases, none of which seem to apply in Muthana’s situation.
Revoking U.S. citizenship can flow from voluntary actions, such as taking an oath to another country or serving in another nation’s armed forces that are engaged in hostilities against America.
Citizenship can be revoked in cases where an American has committed treason, but even there, the individual must be convicted first.
WATCH: Feb. 20 – Family attorney of Alabama woman who joined ISIS says Hoda Muthana was born in New Jersey
West noted that the Trump administration has called on other countries to repatriate their people who fought with ISIS — and yet, it won’t take Muthana back.
“It’s extremely hypocritical from the U.S. perspective,” she said.
In Canada, the federal government used to have the power to strip people of their citizenship for reasons of treason, spying or terrorism.
That became possible through a Citizenship Act amendment that was enacted by Stephen Harper’s government in 2015.
The Liberals, however, repealed that provision.
And now, West asserted, it wouldn’t be possible for Canada to strip an ISIS fighter — or a bride — of citizenship.
Ultimately, West said that revoking citizenship doesn’t deal with a problem, it’s just “punting the problem to someone else” — in certain cases, abandoning them to another country that might welcome them, or that has even less capacity to help in their rehabilitation.
In other words, an ISIS member might no longer be one country’s problem, but could soon become another’s.
With files from The Associated Press