The Obama administration filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Friday asking the Court to block the 17 Chinese Uighurs detained at Guantanamo from entering the United States — this, despite a court ruling last year ordering their release. The petition argues that the Uighurs “have already obtained relief” and that the government had no legal obligation to settle them in the U.S.:
Petitioners have already obtained relief. They are no longer being detained as enemy combatants, they are free to leave Guantanamo Bay to go to any country that is willing to accept them, and in the meantime, they are housed in facilities separate from those for enemy combatants under the least restrictive conditions practicable. Moreover, the government is actively seeking to resettle petitioners, and the President has ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by January 22, 2010. [...]
Petitioners’ continued presence at Guantanamo Bay is not unlawful detention, but rather the consequence of their lawful exclusion from the United States, under the constitutional exercise of authority by the political Branches, coupled with the unavailability of another country willing to accept them. Because the bar to petitioners’ entry into the United States is constitutionally valid, their resulting harborage at Guantanamo Bay is constitutional as well.
Somewhat shockingly, as ABC’s Jake Tapper notes, the Obama administration’s petition suggests that the Uighurs’ imprisonment “isn’t so bad,” and trumpets their comfy quarters at Guantanamo:
“In contrast to individuals currently detained as enemies under the laws of war, petitioners are being housed under relatively unrestrictive conditions, given the status of Guantanamo Bay as a United States military base,” Kagan writes, saying they are “in special communal housing with access to all areas of their camp, including an outdoor recreation space and picnic area.” They “sleep in an air-conditioned bunk house and have the use of an activity room equipped with various recreational items, including a television with VCR and DVD players, a stereo system, and sports equipment.”
Furthermore, the petition cites the Senate’s recent vote to block Guantanamo detainees from entering the U.S. as further reason to deny their release — despite the fact the vote was in defiance of a White House request. The petition comes just a week after President Obama, in a speech defending his plan to close Guantanamo, declared that “the wrong answer is to pretend like this problem will go away if we maintain an unsustainable status quo.”