Civil Liberties

We'll Let You Go As Long As You Settle Somewhere Other Than Earth

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On Wednesday a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously overturned a federal judge's order telling the government to release 17 Uighur Muslims from China who have been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 and allow them to settle in the United States. The Pentagon no longer maintains that the men are "unlawful enemy combatants," but it says they cannot be sent back to China because they might be persecuted there, no other country is willing to accept them, and allowing them into the U.S. is too risky because they trained in Afghanistan to fight the Chinese government. In October, U.S. District Judge Richard Urbina said there was no justification for holding the Uighurs and the U.S. government had an obligation to admit them if there was no place else for them to go.

The appeals court said Urbina's order exceeded his authority. "Never in the history of habeas corpus," two members of the panel said, "has any court thought it had the power to order an alien held overseas brought into the sovereign territory of a nation and released into the general population." The third judge said habeas corpus review for such prisoners would have no teeth without that power, but she said Urbina did not adequately consider whether there was a justification for barring the Uighurs under immigration law. One of the detainees' lawyers said the appeals court's ruling means innocent people "can spend the rest of their lives in prison even though the U.S. knows it's a mistake."

The Obama administration can still decide on its own to let the Uighurs into the country, a move that might encourage other countries to accept Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release and help the president follow through on his commitment to close the prison. Last month I welcomed that decision but noted that Guantanamo is not so much a place as a state of mind, according to which the president has the unilateral, unreviewable authority to lock up enemies of the state and throw away the key. Yesterday I noted that the Obama administration is reserving the option of indefinite military detention for terrorism suspects, although it's not clear what criteria will be used to determine who receives that treatment.

The D.C. Circuit's decision is here (PDF).

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  1. The Pentagon no longer maintains that the men are “unlawful enemy combatants,” but it says they cannot be sent back to China because they might be persecuted there, no other country is willing to accept them, and allowing them into the U.S. is too risky because they trained in Afghanistan to fight the Chinese government.

    Mr. Sullum, that doesn’t mean that there is no place on Earth where they can be let loose. They can totally be sent to Anarctica. Out of the US, out of China, out of Gitmo and outside any country that doesn’t want them.

    Honestly, this solution is so simple and straightforward, only a Liberturdian shilling for the Dhimmicrats would fail to see it. You sheeple make me sick sometimes.

  2. And, we’re off to SCOTUS. Which, after Boumediene, there’s no telling what it will say.

    Still, here’s a good opportunity for Obama to put his money where his mouth is.

    Can I still say that?

  3. Still, here’s a good opportunity for Obama to put his money where his mouth is.

    Can I still say that?

    Are you implying that he should get himself a set of grillz? Then probably not.

  4. Taiwan doesn’t want them? Seems like a perfect match.

  5. Maybe no one here wants to hear this but they really do not belong in the U.S. if they actually were training in Afghanistan.

  6. On a related questions I’ve wondered is have the “living condition” changed for these Uighurs detainee’s since they have been declared not enemy combatants?

  7. What we should do is build a colony on the moon, and send these guys to farm wheat there, which they would then export to the Earth.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  8. Take them back to Afghanistan. Drop them a hundred yards from the Chinese border and set them free. What they do after that is their business.

  9. How about we send them to the Atlantis Project?

    http://oceania.org/

  10. What we should do is build a colony on the moon, and send these guys to farm wheat there, which they would then export to the Earth.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    They’d all have to marry the same woman?
    🙂

  11. It seems the executive *could* have started removal proceedings against these Uighurs under the immigration laws – appears to be an open and shut case of not having a right to be here (not that they asked to be) – after ascertaining their lack of right to be here, then what to do with them while we’re looking for a country for them seems, by statute to be in the executive branch’s discretion.

    Of course, the executive doesn’t pay attention to the immigration laws – why start now? So they’re deliberately refusing to invoke the immigration laws because of a ‘inherent constitutional power of the President’ theory.

    When the habeas case was brought, it seems the executive didn’t invoke the immigration laws, which are now the sole basis for detention. Since they didn’t invoke the sole legal basis for detention, the court should have ordered release. After that, if the executive wanted to make this an immigration case, it could have arrested the people again.

  12. I’m fairly certain they won’t be prevented from settling in Somalia by any government.

  13. How about Crawford, TX?

  14. Take them back to Afghanistan. Drop them a hundred yards from the Chinese border and set them free. What they do after that is their business.

    Not a bad solution… but, make sure there is an armed predator drone overhead.

  15. “I’m fairly certain they won’t be prevented from settling in Somalia by any government”

    beat me to that one!

  16. If they can’t be sent back to China due to persecution, then they’d be refugees, right? They’re currently refugees held under US custody. There is nothing in US immigration law that says the US is barred from admitting refugees, so what’s the big?

    I’d say they’ve got three options. They can offer to return them to Afghanistan, if the Afghan government is willing. If not, they can offer to release them into the country where they’re currently being held on a US military base, if that country is willing. If not, they should be released into the US.

    I can’t imagine that Cuba wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to humiliate the US by taking in people the US detained. I’m sure they’d set them up in reasonably nice digs, at least until the furor died down.

    In any event, there’s no excuse for the US to hold people that are innocent.

  17. HammeredHead | February 20, 2009, 3:53pm | #
    Taiwan doesn’t want them? Seems like a perfect match.

    This is definitely a win.

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