The US House of Representatives voted Thursday to prevent the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States, creating another potential obstacle to President Barack Obama’s plan to close the facility.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Representative Harold Rogers as part of the 2010 Homeland Security Department budget, passed by a vote of 258 to 163, attracting support from nearly all the chamber’s Republicans, as well as 88 Democrats.
“For nine months, the Obama administration has insisted the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay be shuttered within the year; but what have we seen in that time? Nothing. No plan. No idea of how to proceed,” Rogers said before fellow lawmakers.
The measure, which has not been adopted by the Senate and would have to be approved by the higher chamber to become law, seeks to prevent ex-detainees from being granted any immigration benefits.
“Without such a benefit, there is no legal way to bring these terrorists to American soil and in our constituents’ backyards,” Rogers said.
In addition to banning the transfer of detainees to the United States, the measure also bans the release of photos showing detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate discussed adopting a similar measure, but the White House has promised that it will stop the publication of the photographs.
Though Obama initially supported the release of the images, some of which are previously unseen photos from the abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, he changed his mind earlier this year, deciding that their release could unnecessarily endanger US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of the estimated 800 men that have been held at Guantanamo Bay, 223 detainees remain. The Obama administration has pledged to close the facility, though it acknowledged recently it will unlikely meet its self-imposed January 2010 deadline.
The administration has said it expects some 80 detainees currently held at Guantanamo will be repatriated or given asylum in third countries, and around 60 detainees will be prosecuted.
A third group of detainees, who cannot be tried because of evidence problems but are considered too dangerous to release, are expected to be held indefinitely without trial inside the United States.