Napolitano: Gitmo detainees not free in US

WASHINGTON - December 15, 2009

A detainee tried in this country would be treated for immigration purposes as though he is at a U.S. border trying to get in - and he won't get in, Napolitano said in Dec. 11 letter to Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

Napolitano also asserted that detainee would not be given any immigration rights to reside in the U.S.

Detainees brought into the United States for prosecution "are treated as though they are still at the border applying for admission throughout their period of time in the country," the secretary said in the letter. She said that if a detainee were brought to the U.S. for trial, he could be tried, convicted, serve prison time or be acquitted.

Napolitano cited a law that specifically states that the Department of Homeland Security that she heads may not spend any funds to give detainees immigration benefits, including classifying a detainee as a refugee or asylum seeker.

If a detainee cannot be returned to his country because he is likely to be tortured, the U.S. would seek another country to take him, she said.

The Obama administration has announced that five detainees will be tried in a New York federal court and more are likely to be tried in the U.S.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., was not satisfied with Napolitano's response, however. Kyl and other Republican senators had asked about the immigration rights of detainees in a letter last month.

"As you can imagine, even if they are not ultimately eligible for relief, terrorist detainees may seek legal rights under our immigration laws or assert such rights in federal court, thereby setting a precedent that could have grave consequences for the American public," the senators wrote.

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