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August 29, 2006

Do They Have To Take You In?

Home is the place, where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

Well, that is what Robert Frost says.

But what if you are a naturalized citizen seeking to return to the United States after an extended stay in the country of your birth? Or the US native son of such a naturalized citizen, traveling with his father in the Old Country? That doesn't seem to be the opinion of the federal government in this case.

Federal authorities have prevented two relatives of a father and son convicted recently in a terrorism-related case from returning home to California from Pakistan unless they agree to be interviewed by the F.B.I.

It is unclear whether the men, Muhammad Ismail, 45, and his son Jaber, 18, have a direct connection to the terrorism case or if they have been caught up in circumstance.

The United States attorney’s office in Sacramento declined Monday to answer questions about the Ismails beyond confirming that the men had not been permitted to fly into the United States and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted to question them.

The United States attorney, McGregor W. Scott, reiterated a comment he had made to The San Francisco Chronicle, which reported Saturday about the Ismails’ troubles.

“They’ve been given the opportunity to meet with the F.B.I. over there and answer a few questions, and they’ve declined to do that,” Mr. Scott said through a spokeswoman, Mary Wenger.

Part of the problem is the conviction of two family members from California on terrorism charges -- charges related to their activities during a visit to Pakistan. The Ismails, however, have not been charged with any crime. But they have been placed on the "no-fly" list, and have been told they will not be permitted to enter the US without an FBI interview.

But just a moment. Upon what theory can the Federal Government effectively exile American citizens? Is there not, as held repeatedly by the Supreme Court, a right for American citizens to travel, both within the United States and abroad? And while ertain travel restrictions may reasonably be imposed (such as the ban on travel to Cuba), shouldn't such restrictions be clearly spelled out in advance and generally applicable?

We are not the old Soviet Union, with internal passports and heavy travel rsetrictions placed upon enslaved citizens. This course of action does not feel right to me. Because these are Americans, when they seek to come home, we have to take them in -- and they cannot be required to surrender their rights under the Constitution of the United States as a condition of return, which is precisely what is being demanded of them.

A number of my conservative brother and sister bloggers take the opposite position, including Stop the ACLU, Woman Honor Thyself, Cigar Intelligence Agencyand Uncooperative Blogger.

Hammer of Truth Practical Nomad, and Volokh Conspiracy (sort of) are on my side of the issue.





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