Obama Speech Calls for an End to the War Footing
Washington, D.C. – Tonight, in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Human Rights First’s Robyn Lieberman issued the following statement:
“Amidst great political tension in Washington, President Obama delivered a State of the Union laying out his plan to strengthen America, and thus America’s capacity to lead in the world.
“The president was right to call for America to ‘move off a permanent war footing,’ and toward a more strategic counterterrorism response. This included a plea to Congress to lift the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers out of Guantanamo, because we counter terrorism most effectively when we do so in a way that stays ‘true to our Constitutional ideals and sets an example for the rest of the world.’ Last year, President Obama and Congress worked together to pass new legislation to allow greater flexibility for the foreign transfer of Guantanamo detainees cleared for release. This year, President Obama and Congress should work together to lift the remaining restrictions that prevent detainees from coming to the United States for prosecution in courts that can guarantee fair and constitutional proceedings. The administration should also work with lawmakers to establish greater transparency with regard to targeted killing by publishing the Presidential Policy Guidance and underlying legal analysis.
“President Obama also pledged to work with Congress to pass immigration reform legislation. In doing so, he should work for a final package that improves our asylum system to uphold our nation’s commitment to provide refuge for those seeking protection from harm, including refugees fleeing the violence in Syria, and those escaping religious persecution. He should also urge Congress to include elimination of the arbitrary asylum filing deadline, which bars legitimate asylum seekers from protection in the United States. Such a step would reaffirm the important role the United States has always played in providing a safe haven for the world’s most vulnerable populations.
“As President Obama said tonight, ‘The world turns to us,’ because nobody else does what we do. U.S. global leadership remains vital both to what we do at home and our policies abroad. The president has outlined initiatives from Guantanamo to immigration to equality that move America toward its better ideals, and a better future for all. We look forward to working with the administration and Congress to address these key human rights issues in a bipartisan way that reflects core American values and ideals.”