The Corner

Uighurs: Sometimes, the Obama Friday Night Bad News Dump Is Bad for the Left

The Obama Justice Department told the Supreme Court this evening that the Uighurs have no right to be released into the United States.

The Uighurs, Chinese Muslim detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, received terrorist training at al-Qaeda affiliated camps (from an organization formally designated as a foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law) and were captured after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. They are the Left’s combatant cause célèbre. The military took the incoherent position that they were trained al-Qaeda terrorists but that their real beef was with China, not us. Thus, the federal courts have held that they are not enemy combatants. The government has been trying to relocate them for years but no country will take the remaining 17 — other than China, where our treaty obligations arguably forbid us from sending them because there is reason to believe they’d be persecuted. 

Of course, it’s one thing to say that they are not enemy combatants and should therefore be released. It is quite another thing, though, to say that they should be released into the United States (which, because of their terrorist affiliations, would violate federal immigration law). But as Cliff noted earlier today, alluding to the stellar work of Tom Joscelyn at the Standard, federal judge Richard Urbina did try to order their release into the U.S. (Here at NRO, the editors weighed in on Judge Urbina’s absurd decision, here.) Fortunately, in a well reasoned decision authored by Judge Raymond Randolph (which I discussed here), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled Judge Urbina, holding that just because courts have the power to review whether a prisoner is properly designated an enemy combatant does not mean they have the power to order the release into the United States of those found not to be enemy combatants.

The Uighurs appealed, and today the Justice Department filed its responsive brief. Solicitor General Elena Kagan argued — consistent with the Bush administration position — that the Uighurs have no right to be released into the U.S. As Lyle Denniston recaps at SCOTUSblog:

The brief holds to the position of the Bush Administration that a court’s power to issue a remedy in a habeas case — in the wake of the Supreme Court’s mandate that the detainees have a constitutional right to seek their freedom — is limited to a finding of eligibility for release, without an actual release from captivity while diplomatic negotiations to resettle a prisoner continue.

The D.C. Circuit Court ruled that no federal court has the authority to order release of a Guantanamo prisoner into the U.S., and the Solicitor General argued that that decision is correct.

“The court of appeals,” the brief said, “properly recognized that whether to admit an alien into the United States presents a question wholly distinct from issues concerning detention abroad — and a question that is reserved to the political Branches.”

The Supreme Court, it added, “has repeatedly stressed that whether to allow an alien into the United States is a sovereign prerogative that requires the consent of the political Branches.”

The Uighurs, the government brief said, “would like the federal courts to order that they be brought to the United States, because they are unwilling to return to their home country. But they have no entitlement to that form of relief.”

This is entirely correct, but it will enrage the Left — understandably, given that Attorney General Holder raised expectations that the Uighurs would soon be released in the U.S., prompting an outraged response from Congress (including congressional Democrats in Virginia, the likely site of any Uighur settlement in the U.S.). Watch tomorrow as our usual conservative commentator suspects insist that we must give President Obama great credit for doing the right thing for national security — and conveniently ignore that the president tends to do the right thing only after knuckle-dragging right-wingers push back against his (and his Justice Department’s) reliable inclination to do the wrong thing.

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