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AGs: Sending Guantanamo detainees to states would ‘violate federal law and harm our States’

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Three state attorneys general, including Attorney General Alan Wilson, told the president on Wednesday any attempt to relocate detainees from Guantanamo Bay to their states would be illegal and should be rejected.

In a letter to President Obama, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson noted that U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified in Congress on Tuesday that federal law does not allow transfer of detainees to the U.S. mainland.

The state attorneys general ask the president to “abide by the restrictions enacted into law by Congress and decline to transfer detainees to our States.”

“Moving detainees to the mainland will create imminent danger and make the communities where they are placed targets, which is precisely what the restrictive language enacted by Congress is designed to prevent,” the state attorneys general wrote. “Recent attacks in France, Egypt, Lebanon and elsewhere underscore the risk your illegal action would bring to our States.”

A press release states the state attorneys general also noted the lack of transparency in the administration’s plans related to detainee transfers and observed that administration officials had made conflicting public statements about the federal government’s intentions.

The attorneys general asked the administration for an explanation not later than December 4 of its intentions and an articulation of its claimed legal authority to transfer detainees to the mainland.

The press release went on to say that despite the existing prohibition in federal law on the use of any funds to “assist” in the transfer of detainees to the U.S. mainland, federal survey teams have recently traveled to locations in Colorado, Kansas and South Carolina, apparently to assess facilities in those states as possible sites for the relocation of Guantanamo detainees.

Attorney General Coffman said:  “As Colorado Attorney General, it is my duty to ensure the safety and security of Coloradans and to enforce the rule of law. In addition to the threat posed by moving foreign detainees with terrorist ties into Colorado, this would be an unlawful and unconstitutional action by the president,” said Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman. “It is my legal conclusion that such a transfer would violate several federal laws and as the elected chief law enforcement officer of the State, I will oppose any action that plainly violates the rule of law.”

Attorney General Schmidt said: “The citizens and communities near the federal facilities in Leavenworth must not be required to assume the risk of the administration’s insistence on closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Federal law forbids the transfer of detainees to Leavenworth, and I will do all I can to ensure that the law is enforced.”

Attorney General Wilson said: “We are committed to exploring our legal options and working with the South Carolina delegation and Governor Haley to use every tool necessary to protect South Carolina from dangerous terrorists currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. The president’s potential executive order would be unlawful and endanger all South Carolinians.”

The attorneys general letter is available HERE.

Information provided by the Office of Attorney General Alan Wilson. 

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