Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Chinese Uighurs who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay these past several years have lost another court case in their quest to be released from Gitmo into the United States. These Uighurs are pursuing habeas claims in U.S. courts and are seeking the right to enter the United States because they claim they would be persecuted or even tortured if returned to China and their continued detention constitutes unlawful indefinite executive detention.
Readers of this blog will likely recall that in March 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider whether further proceedings are warranted in light of the fact that five of the Uighurs had been offered resettlement in third countries, but had rejected those offers (12 others accepted offers of resettlement). See Kiyemba v. Obama, 130 S.Ct. 1235 (March 1, 2010). The Uighurs claim a further remand to the trial court is necessary to determine whether the offers of settlement are "appropriate."
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Uighurs are not entitled to any further hearings, nor are they entitled to be released into the United States. See Kiyemba v. Obama, No. 08-5424 (May 28, 2010). The Court stated that it is for the political branches of government to control the borders of the United States and to decide who to admit to the country and who to exclude, as well as to determine whether any resettlement offers are appropriate. The Court pointed out that since its first opinion in Kiyemba in 2009, Congress had enacted seven different statutes prohibiting the expenditure of funds to bring persons to the United States from Gitmo. These statutes provide the Court with evidence of Congressional views on the matter. The Uighurs have no right to be admitted to the U.S. and their release from detention is within their control since they have the ability to accept an offer of resettlement.
The Court's opinion is consistent with precedent such as Mezei which also denied a noncitizen detained on Ellis Island entry to the United States. See Shaughnessy v. United States ex rel. Mezei, 345 U.S. 206 (1953). Mezei's case was perhaps more compelling in that he had been a lawful permanent resident of the United States most of his life and was returning from a visit to Eastern Europe when he was detained. He was willing to go to another country, but could not find one that would take him. By contrast, the Uighurs have never lived in the United States and have had offers of resettlement from stable democratic countries such as Switzerland and Palau, which makes their demand to be resettled in the U.S. less sympathetic or pressing than it was prior to those offers of resettlement.