Today, President Barack Obama called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. He plans to deliver the proposal to Congress this week, seven years after he made the encampment’s closure part of his presidential platform. Obama said that Guantanamo Bay “doesn’t help U.S. security—it undermines it” in a press conference today. If the facility closes, it will also close a controversial chapter of American history.
“The plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo. It’s not just about dealing with the current group of detainees, which is a complex piece of business because of the manner in which they were originally apprehended and what happened,” the president said. His proposal would move the detainees to other countries or to another detention facility in the U.S.
However, the proposal is not expected to make it very far through Congress, as it is likely to be rejected by the Republican opposition. The plan was devised by the Pentagon and demonstrates how a shutdown of Guantanamo Bay would work, but months ago both Democratic and Republican lawmakers voted that the president could not move detainees onto United States soil.
Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and former presidential hopeful John McCain criticized the plan, arguing that it is “not a credible plan for closing Guantanamo, let alone a coherent policy to deal with future terrorist detainees.” Current law prevents funds from being used to close Guantanamo, which could make the process of shutting it down more difficult. 10 of the current 91 detainees are expected to have military tribunals, and the other 47 could be approved to be sent home or to another country. 20 detainees have been sent to Oman.
The proposed plan could save the U.S. government between $65 and $85 million dollars per year, which would help eliminate some of the nation’s severe debt. It remains to be seen if the proposal will pass through Congress and be approved, and many people, including the mayor of Leavenworth, Kansas, where there is a maximum security Army prison, do not want Guantanamo detainees to be brought onto American soil.
President Obama is likely to be pressured into keeping the prison open. It’s unlikely that the proposal will get Congress’ support, but it’s not out of the question.