Jamal Kiyemba, et al. v. Barack H. Obama, et al.

Appeals Court: Only Immigration Officials, Not A
Federal Judge, Can Transfer Detainees
From Guantanamo Bay to U.S. Soil

February 18, 2009

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  • Sabin Willett, Lawyer for the Detainees
  • Bingham McCutchen LLP for the Detainees
  • U.S. Department of Justice, for the Federal Government
  • Criminal Defense Lawyers

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  • FindLaw's Immigration Law Center
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  • A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. overturned a lower court opinion that directed 17 Guantanamo Bay detainees be transferred to the United States for prosecution in federal courts.

    The detainees are known as ethnic Uighurs, members of a Turkic Muslim minority in Xinjiang, a western Chinese province.

    In an 18-page opinion, the court's majority concludes that only immigration officials  —  not judges  —  have legal authority to admit non-U.S. citizens loocated outside the United States into the country.

    The majority explains that:

    "…the bottom line is clear. Aliens [like the detainees] are not eligible for admission into the United States unless they have applied for admission."

    The dissenting judge disagreed, concluding that:

    Today the court nevertheless appears to conclude that a habeas court lacks authority to order that a non-“enemy combatant” alien be released into the country (as distinct from be admitted under the immigration laws) when the Executive [Branch] can point to no legal justification for detention and to no foreseeable path of release.

    You can read the majority and dissenting opinions below:


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