House Armed Services Committee Approves Defense Funding, Rejects Mini-Amnesties or Transfer of GitmoTerrorists

By Dan Cadman on April 29, 2016

In what was apparently a sometimes-contentious, marathon 17-hour session, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has approved and will soon forward to the full chamber the federal fiscal year 2017 defense spending bill, the "National Defense Authorization Act of 2017".

Among the amendments raised by Democrats and defeated were several measures of interest to those such as myself who advocate a robust and balanced immigration enforcement program; the kind that used to exist before being dismantled by the Obama administration.

The HASC considered and voted down:

Opening up military enlistment to illegal aliens. This measure would have opened up the floodgates as a kind of amnesty end-around by permitting such aliens, who have already shown their scofflaw proclivities by illegal entry and violation of sundry identity theft laws, to join the armed services. Note that the measure would also have done nothing to improve the quality of our military; many aliens illegally present in the United States are unskilled, functionally illiterate, and/or speak inadequate English to fully communicate. The battlefield is not the place to improve literacy and language skills, and the armed services are not the place to engage in "foreign legion" experiments designed not to improve military capabilities but to overwhelm immigration status barriers.

Creation and funding of a "study" aimed at helping illegal alien recipients of DACA, Obama's executive amnesty, find their way into the U.S. military academies. Why the federal government would spend money to permit illegal aliens to enter some of the most elite schools in the country is beyond me. The cost of educating the young men and women who attend West Point, the Naval Academy, and other such academies is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. To be admitted is a singular honor even among U.S. citizens; slots are extremely limited and most applicants, even those who are very bright and talented citizens, are rejected. Why exactly should the military command structure be awarding entry to people who are not citizens; who may or may not be up to the task; whose future in this country is in doubt, given the indefinite, temporary nature of DACA; and who are not needed to fill the slots with exceptional officers? It seems clear that the only reason for introducing the amendment was to find a way to embed congressional approval of DACA — a constitutionally dubious exercise of executive authority in the first place — into the law somewhere, anywhere, as a sub rosa way of undercutting accusations that DACA is an unlawful intrusion into legislative power.

Conversely, the HASC maintained:

The ban on spending funds to transfer Guantanamo terrorist detainees to the United States, or in building or refitting a facility to hold them on American soil. Twice in recent weeks, I have written on the risks that attach to movement of these alien terrorists into the United States (see here and here), particularly in this last year of the Obama presidency. Let us hope that this portion of the bill survives intact, is approved by both chambers, and is enacted into law in a timely manner, else there will be a short hiatus during which the ban doesn't apply before the president leaves office. The ranking Democratic member, Rep. Adam Smith, introduced an amendment to gut the ban, calling the Guantanamo facility an "unbelievably expensive eyesore". Expensive, yes, but an eyesore? No. Rather, it is severe-looking, as any effective maximum security detention facility must inevitably be. One had no idea that avoiding "eyesores" was the new standard for building detention centers. As to expense: Anyone care to gauge how much it would cost to create or refit a build-to-suit maximum security facility for individuals so dangerous that the secretary of Defense says they cannot possibly be transferred into the custody of any other country? Especially if it must be created to avoid the "eyesore" standard?

Congratulations are due to Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the HASC, and to Rep. Mo Brooks and the other responsible members of the committee, for their work in pursing the national interest and protecting the public safety.