Note to President Obama: 17 Uighurs at Gitmo legally inadmissible into U.S.

President Barack Obama has often said that America should comply with the “rule of law.” While it would be a violation of federal law to allow the 17 Uighurs at Guantanamo released into the United States, that is what lawyers and advocates are asking him to do in the wake of yesterday’s court decision, according to the Los Angeles Times:

The U.S. government may continue holding a group of 17 Chinese Muslims instead of releasing them in the United States, even though they are no longer considered dangerous, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in reversing an earlier decision. … The men are Uighurs, an ethnic group native to China’s vast western steppes that has occasionally sought autonomy from Beijing. They were detained near Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains shortly after the American invasion and later handed over to U.S. military officials.
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Uighur advocates said Wednesday that because the court ruled that the White House could not be forced to release the 17 men, the Obama administration should now move on its own to release them [emphasis added mine]. The ruling “in no way limits the ability of the executive branch to release the Uighurs on its own,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior policy counsel for the Constitution Project, a legal advocacy group. “We therefore call on President Obama to choose the right course.”

Section 103 of the Real ID Act of 2005 states that “any alien” who “has engaged in a terrorist activity” or “is a member of a terrorist organization” may not be admitted into the United States.

Two weeks ago, the Long War Journal reported:

During the reign of the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to the US invasion in 2001, the 055 Brigade served as “the shock troops of the Taliban and functioned as an integral part of the latter’s military apparatus,” al Qaeda expert Rohan Gunaratna wrote in Inside al Qaeda. At its peak in 2001, the 055 Brigade had an estimated 2,000 soldiers and officers in the ranks. The brigade was comprised of Arabs, Central Asians, and South Asians, as well as Chechens, Bosnians, and Uighurs from Western China.

Last August the LWJ also reported the results of its review of the 22 Uighurs originally held at Guantanamo:

All of the Uighurs at Gitmo have been associated with, or been members of, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (“ETIM”). … 20 of the 22 Uighurs detained at Gitmo were allegedly trained in an ETIM training camp and/or other facilities. At least 15 of the Uighurs detained at Gitmo have admitted that they received weapons training. The main training camp at which the Uighurs trained was reportedly sponsored by al Qaeda and the Taliban. … Some of the Uighur detainees are alleged to have fought in Afghanistan. … At least several of the Uighur detainees have ties to the ETIM’s senior leadership, which is, in turn, tied to the senior leadership of al Qaeda. … The ETIM, and Abdul Haq, remain a threat.

In 2002, our State Department designated the East Turkestan Islamic Movement a terrorist organization. More recently, both the United Nations and Pakistan have assigned that same designation to the group.

In addition, the Los Angeles Times also reported that, “In military tribunals at Guantanamo, many of the men said they saw themselves as allies of the U.S. against China. Several said they had traveled to Afghanistan for training to fight the Chinese.”

Regardless of whether President Obama agrees with the Uighurs and their lawyers, our federal law says those 17 detainees cannot be legally admitted into the United States.

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