Colorado lawmakers weigh in on Guantanamo closing

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Washington, DC, February 23, 2016 | comments

Content originally published by Denver News 7 on February 23rd, 2016.

DENVER - A plan to close Guantanamo Bay is being sent to Congress, President Obama announced Tuesday.

Colorado's Supermax facility in Florence has frequently been named as a place to send the detainees. Also on the list is Colorado State Penitentiary II.

According to The White House, the detention facility in Cuba has just 91 detainees remaining. Nearly 800 were held there at one time.

In making his announcement, the President twice reminded the public that former President George Bush even called for the closure of Guantanamo.

The President said that it cost $450 million last year to keep Guantanamo running, with another $200 million to keep it open moving forward.

Of the 91 detainees, 35 have been approved for transfer to other countries, but the President said he wants to work with Congress to find a secure location in the United States for the remaining detainees.

"We are not identifying a specific facility today in this plan.  We are outlining what options look like," said the President.

Last year, Congress wrote into legislation a restriction on bringing detainees to the United States.

When the President signed the national defense budget into law last year, it included this nugget:

"Prohibits the use of funds to transfer or release detainees at Guantanamo to or within the United States, its territories, or possessions."

"As Congress has imposed restrictions that currently prevent the transfer of detainees to the United States, we recognize that this is going to be a challenge.  And we’re going to keep making the case to Congress that we can do this is a responsible and secure way, taking into account the lessons and great record of our maximum-security prisons," said the President.

Denver7 requested responses from Colorado's Congressional delegation immediately after the President's announcement.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado:

"I've repeatedly said I do not support the transfer of prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military facility to Colorado. I've voted to close the prison, but I believe military detainees should be held in military prisons. Colorado does not have that type of facility. This plan has done nothing to change my mind. These detainees should not be transferred to Colorado."

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado:

"Pursuant to law he signed just three months ago, the President is prohibited from transferring or assisting in the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States homeland, as confirmed by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Regardless of today’s futile proposal, transferring detainees to the U.S. is illegal, and it’s rejected by Coloradans, top Colorado law enforcement officials, and Americans across the country. Today’s proposal only signals that the President may be willing to once again circumvent Congress and ignore the very law he approved in order to fulfill his campaign promises. This represents a grave threat to Colorado and our national security and I will take any and all action as a United States Senator to ensure Guantanamo Bay detainees remain in Cuba and out of Colorado."

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Congressional District 1:

"I support the closure of Guantanamo Bay. As part of its plans, the Obama Administration will need to provide more details about potential facilities that may house detainees. We need to see more specifics to know whether the circumstances surrounding the detainees currently housed at Guantanamo Bay are compatible with ADX Florence or any other Colorado facilities."

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Congressional District 2:

“It has been over a decade since the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay came to light and spiraled into an international embarrassment. If we have evidence that the detained are guilty of wrongdoing, then we should bring them to trial and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Opponents of closing the Guantanamo Bay facility have formulated a narrative that the government must choose between the rights of terrorist suspects and our own national security, an ultimatum that I don’t believe. By openly violating our values as Americans, not only have we weakened ourselves in the eyes of the international community, but also supply recruitment tools for terrorist cells. I stand with the President’s orders to shut down the Guantanamo facility, and I believe that our top priority should be concentrated on locking up detainees facing criminal charges, so they can be sentenced and tried justly."

Denver7 Note: A follow up email requesting Polis' specific views on detainees to Supermax was not returned as of Tuesday night.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Congressional District 3:

"The President’s plan to close Guantanamo Bay is about as thoughtful as something drawn last minute on the back of a napkin. I’d say he needs to go back to the drawing board, but that would be working under the assumption that there is something viable in the proposal that can be improved on, which there is not. The President wants to move detainees to the United States, including Colorado as a potential site. The President’s proposal to transfer detainees to the U.S. remains unacceptable, not to mention illegal. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate and fellow members of the Colorado delegation to do everything possible to prevent this from happening."

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Congressional District 4:

"Time and time again, public safety has taken a back seat to political point-scoring with this President. Not only could the President’s plan cost nearly half a billion dollars, but it makes us less safe."

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Congressional District 5:

Denver7 Note: Supermax is in Lamborn's district.

"This new Obama plan doesn’t really change the debate about Guantanamo, and it certainly doesn’t change the law. The debate has always been fundamentally about the safety of the American people and the President’s denial of the reality of the threat posed by radical Islam. Transferring detainees to the United States -- whether to Colorado or anywhere else -- is still against the law, and still against the will of the American people. The law has made it perfectly clear that there should not be a single detainee transfer to the United States. Period. Any attempt of the president to violate the law on this issue would trample our constitutional concept of separation of powers, disregard the concerns of our citizens, and play politics with American security. The President's plan fails to meet the requirements of the NDAA and leaves Congress to fill in the blanks. This is not a responsible plan. Although the President hasn't explained where he intends to transfer the detainees, I will continue to fight to prevent Guantanamo Bay detainees from being transported to Colorado."

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Congressional District 6:

"I remain adamantly opposed to closing GTMO. The answer to the President’s plan is no, absolutely not. These hardened terrorists are irregular enemy combatants who should be housed at Guantanamo, and not in Colorado nor in any other state."

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Congressional District 7:

"President Obama outlined a plan today to uphold American values and close Guantanamo Bay. I have long-supported closing the facility because I believe it is the right thing to do for taxpayers and as Americans. As a country, we have prosecuted and imprisoned terrorists and can continue to do so. I want to see any plan as it relates to Colorado and understand the assessment process, but I do know that Supermax facilities hold the worst criminals in America."

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