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Working to keep terrorists out of the United States

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has been engaged in a war to root out terrorism in order to protect the citizens of the U.S. from further terrorist attacks.  During this war on terror, troops have captured and detained numerous terrorists who have taken up arms against the United States and innocent civilians.  Many of these terrorists are being held as “enemy combatants” at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

However, on January 22, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within one year.  Despite the fact that a recent Gallup poll shows that more than 75 percent of those surveyed oppose moving the accused terrorists to prisons in their own states, the Administration seems determined to move forward with this dangerous policy.

The Administration has indicated that it intends to release or transfer those detainees deemed “safe.” However, over 500 “safe” detainees have already been released and of those, the Pentagon estimates one out of seven has returned to terrorist activities. 

The Administration also plans to prosecute terrorists they believe they can successfully convict.  This could prove problematic as well.  Once on U.S. soil, the detainees will automatically be granted additional rights, which will make the cases harder to prosecute and many terrorists may not be brought to justice.  There is no guarantee that these terrorists will be given life sentences and once released from prison, the U.S. will attempt to deport them as criminal aliens.  However, under current law, if Immigration and Customs Enforcement is unable to deport them after six months, they may be released into the U.S.

Finally, the Administration admits that some terrorists can neither be released nor prosecuted and therefore must be further detained but the Administration provides no indication of where these prisoners will be sent.

Recently I joined over 165 other Members of Congress in introducing legislation aimed at stopping the importation of terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.  The “Keep Terrorists Out of America Act” affirms Congress’ opposition to transferring or releasing terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay prison into the U.S.  It also makes clear that governors and state legislatures must pre-approve the transfer or release of any terrorist detainee into their respective states. 

Additionally, I am a supporter of legislation which was introduced by Congressman Randy Forbes, which would prohibit the use of funds to transfer individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay to facilities in Virginia or to house these individuals at any facilities in Virginia.

Despite the Administration’s claims that keeping Guantanamo Bay open could endanger American lives, closing a prison that is currently housing more than 200 of the most dangerous terrorists will not make Americans safer.  Bringing terrorists to the U.S. and giving them additional constitutional rights will not deter other terrorists, and transferring terrorists to prisons inside the U.S. will not strengthen our national security.  I intend to continue working to ensure that these detainees are not brought into the United States.