DC Circuit rules against release of Gitmo Uighurs

A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Feb. 18 reversed an October district court order that called for the release of 17 Uighur detainees from Guantánamo Bay into the US. Lawyers for the detainees argued that the Uighurs’ continued detention was improper, but the DC Circuit agreed with the government’s position that admission of aliens into the US was a decision for either the executive or legislative branch, and that the detainees were not denied a statutory or constitutional right by being excluded.

Writing for the majority, Judge Raymond Randolph wrote that the requirements for aliens to be admitted to the US were the exclusive purview of the political branches of government and that it was beyond the court’s authority to grant their admission to the country:

For more than a century, the Supreme Court has recognized the power to exclude aliens as “inherent in sovereignty, necessary for maintaining normal international relations and defending the country against foreign encroachments and dangers—a power to be exercised exclusively by the political branches of government” and not “granted away or restrained on behalf of any one.” Ever since the decision in the Chinese Exclusion Case, the Court has, without exception, sustained the exclusive power of the political branches to decide which aliens may, and which aliens may not, enter the United States, and on what terms.

The Constitution Project, which had filed an amicus curiae brief on the Uighurs’ behalf, criticized the ruling shortly after its release, and called on President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to order their release and admission to the US.

The US government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants, but it has linked them with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. China has renewed its demand for the Uighurs to be repatriated, and in October, Chinese authorities called on other nations to arrest and extradite eight alleged ETIM members whom they suspected of plotting to attack the Olympic Games this past summer in Beijing. (Jurist, Feb. 18)

See our last posts on Guantánamo Bay and the Uighurs.