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Senate passes bill allowing transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US for trial

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] voted 79-19 [roll call vote] Tuesday in favor of a bill [HR 2892 materials] permitting Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees to be brought to the US for trial. The measure was part of a $42.7 billion spending bill for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website].While the detainees still may not be released on US soil or housed in US jails, the bill requires the Obama administration to develop a plan [RTT report] for the anticipated closure date of Guantanamo Bay in January 2010. Navy Rear Admiral Tom Copeman has announced that he can clear the base of all detainees [Miami Herald report] given only 10 days notice and appropriate logistical support. Meanwhile, a group of retired generals has launched a national ad campaign [AP report] in support of closing the facility. Tuesday's bill also extends the life of the E-Verify program [NYT report], which permits employers to check on the immigration status of their new employees. The bill will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The House of Representatives approved the bill [JURIST report] last week. Members of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee [list, PDF] reached an agreement [JURIST report] earlier this month to allow Guantanamo detainees to be transferred to the US for trial. The agreement came shortly after US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told reporters that Congressional opposition may cause the Obama administration to miss its January deadline for closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, echoing prior statements [JURIST reports] by top administration officials. Also this month, the House passed a non-binding motion [JURIST report] to instruct the conferees to prohibit the transfer of detainees to the US for prosecution or incarceration. The motion instructed House committee members to insist on such prohibitions during negotiations.

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