Congressman Omar says her allegiance is to Somalia
Ilhan Omar is a congresswoman from Minnesota. She is officially a citizen of the United States and has sworn an oath of allegiance when she became a citizen and an oath to uphold the Constitution when she became a member of Congress. She is of Somalian ancestry.
So, is she a loyal citizen – and an upholder of her oaths? That would not be a question if she had not said some provocative things. In a speech in her native language, Omar said that she is FIRST a Somalian and second a Muslim. Notably absent was any reference to being an American.
Traditionally, those who come to the United States to become Americans are proud of their new designation. They proclaim themselves to be an American first. That does not mean that they do not love and live their ancestral traditions of language, food, music or religion. It is just that they have pledged allegiance and loyalty to America. They love to BE an American.
Omar’s comments could be interpreted as merely an oversight – that she was speaking only within the context of ancestral culture. She did not mean to disregard her American citizenship.
But she said something else that is potentially clarifying and truly disturbing. She added “Sleep in comfort, knowing I am here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the U.S. system.”
That is not a misstatement. That is specific and a declarative … period. She could be describing herself as a foreign agent.
There is an incidental irony to her statements. Omar – and other members of the squad – have been critical of Jewish Americans for what they claim is their loyalty to Israel. Of course, no Jewish member of Congress has ever said that their primary purpose is to protect the interest of Israel from inside the U.S. system. If they ever had done so, I suspect Omar would be among the first to point a condemning finger at them.
So … let us take Omar at her word. What should be done about it?
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis believes that Omar should be tossed from the Congress, have her citizenship revoked and be deported back to Somalia. That has a certain visceral appeal for folks who love America but it is a bit hyperbolic. That is not how we do things in America if we respect the Constitution and value our own rights– even if our gut feels otherwise.
George Washington University professor and constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley offers a different view. He looks at the Omar situation through the prism of two of America’s most important freedoms and rights – free speech and the reliance on the people to elect their own representatives.
In his blog, Turley wrote, “While I have been a long critic of Omar, her views expressed in this speech are not only protected speech, but they are not a basis for denaturalization.”
As a free speech extremist – like our Founders and consistent with the meaning of the First Amendment – I understand that unless we tolerate unpopular opinions and even offensive speech, we are undermining our own constitutional rights.
I have always been very reluctant to nullify the manifest will of the people by politically removing elected officials for anything but the most extreme transgressions – literally convicted of major crimes. I would not have expelled Congressman Ron Santos. I would not expel Senator Robert Menendez. I prefer to leave those decisions up to the collective will of the people in the next election.
That does not mean that there should be no consequences in the meantime. In the Omar case, I would consider a resolution of condemnation, removal from any leadership positions in Congress and from committee assignments – especially those that have any responsibility for foreign policy.
If she were found to pursue specific activities beneficial to Somalia and detrimental to United States security – a crime – that would justify both removal and criminal adjudication. So far, that threshold has not been met.
Even if such measures were invoked, it is possible that the people of her District would reelect her. I may not respect their decision, but I do respect their right to make that decision.
In short, I do not like or respect Omar. I personally wish she were not in Congress. But the people of her District put her there, and it is their primary duty and responsibility to decide her future as a representative of the people.
Omar was almost unseated in her 2022 primary election. We can only hope that a challenge in either the primary or general election will be more successful this time. THAT is the American way.
So, there ‘tis.