Newsweek: Conservative calls to deport Representative Ilhan Omar over comments she purportedly made about Somalia have no legal merit, experts tell Newsweek.
The progressive Democrat, a Somali American and Muslim, has been under fire for remarks she allegedly made to Somali American constituents that have been viewed over 7 million times on X. Omar, a Somali American and Muslim, seemed to address a deal struck by Somalia's breakaway region of Somaliland with landlocked Ethiopia to give it access to the sea.
Republicans, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, have openly called for Omar to be deported, with the latter saying: "She flaunts using her position as congresswoman to protect Somalia's border while our border is invaded by MILLIONS of illegals who are a danger to America."
Immigration lawyer Rosanna Berardi told Newsweek that since Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen, calls for deportation lack legal ground unless the individual in question gained citizenship through nefarious means such as fraud, misrepresentation or membership in certain organizations—or being dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military if citizenship was based on military service.
The Minnesota representative's statements, whether accurate or taken out of context, are also protected under the First Amendment, which extends not just to U.S. citizens but also to public officials who routinely express opinions on foreign and domestic matters and do so without fear of legal repercussions—especially deportation.
"The Immigration and Nationality Act allows for deportation/removal of individuals due to criminal activities, violations of status or violation of immigration law," Berardi said. "Deportation for expressing political views, particularly those covered by the First Amendment, is not legally supported. Political speech does not constitute a valid basis for deportation.
"In essence, we have a series of sound bites here that are legally baseless. Typical political banter."
Stephen Schnably, a law professor at the University of Miami, told Newsweek that calls for the deportation of a sitting member of Congress for expressing personal views—whether accurate or spun by political adversaries—is "far beyond the realm of any reasonable response to her remarks."
"It's just not in the cards, deportation as punishment for a U.S. citizen," he said. "That is something that just cannot be done."
He said that even if Omar's statements, as attributed by some conservatives, are taken at face value, favoring foreign country interests over U.S. interests "is not a First Amendment violation to do that." Members of Congress can say what they want, and ultimately, voters have their say in elections.
The situation would potentially be different if Omar did not hypothetically register as an agent of a foreign government, comparing Omar's casual remarks to criminal charges against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. The New Jersey legislator and his wife are accused of accepting bribes, including gold, cash, a luxury vehicle and payments toward a home mortgage, allegedly in exchange for advancing their interests, as well as those of the Egyptian government, in his role as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But in Omar's case, there is no indication that anything of that sort—of "committing a well-defined crime where conduct or actions are not in accordance with a statute that is constitutional."
Politicians make similar remarks all the time, Schnably added, saying there is nothing unusual about foreign policy positions that favor one country over another in a dispute.
Omar's alleged statements, backlash
According to one translation of Omar's remarks first shared on X by Ambassador Rhoda J. Elmi, Somaliland's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Omar purportedly said that she was "Somalian first, Muslim second" and "here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the U.S. system."
Omar is also alleged to have said that "as Somalis, one day we will go after our missing territories."
But Omar has refuted the retelling of her statements, calling the viral clip "not only slanted but completely off," adding that she "wouldn't expect more from these propagandists."
Another translation posted online by Abdirashid Hashi, a researcher and Somalia analyst, states that Omar said that Somalis "are sisters and brothers, supporting each other, people who know they are Somalis and Muslims, coming to each other's aid."
Per that translation, she also said: "While I am in Congress, no one will take Somalia's sea. The United States will not back others to rob us. So, do not lose sleep over that, O Minnesotans. The lady you sent to Congress is on this, and she is as cognizant of this interest as you are."
Greene bashed Omar and her comments in an X post, saying: " Patriots, you must show up big in 2024. We have a country to save and people to deport."
"Expel from Congress, denaturalize and deport!" DeSantis wrote on X.
In the past, DeSantis has singled out Omar as allegedly propagating antisemitic movements within Congress. In January 2022, after a group of people wearing Nazi symbols made national headlines for yelling antisemitic slurs on streets and highway overpasses in the Orlando area, DeSantis said he would not let others shame him for his support of Jews.
"I'm not going to have people try to smear me that belong to a political party that has elevated antisemites to the halls of Congress, like (US Rep.) Ilhan Omar, that have played footsie with the (boycott Israel) movement," DeSantis said at the time.