(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/15/15) – Today the U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment calling on President Obama to evacuate American citizens and nationals trapped in Yemen as part of a larger annual defense spending bill that was approved by the House this afternoon and sent to the Senate where it now awaits consideration.
Yesterday the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee issued a joint action alert urging Congress to support the Yemen evacuation amendment as well as supporting an amendment offered to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Jenifer Wicks, Litigation Director of Civil Rights at CAIR and one of the attorneys in the law suit, stated “We filed a law suit on April 9 asking the Court to order the Department of Defense and Department of State to evacuate U.S. Citizens and are pleased to see that House representatives have passed this amendment, expressing to President Obama that he should evacuate U.S. citizens and nationals from Yemen, as acting to protect Americans abroad advances U.S. foreign policy goals. We also hope that the Senate will pass legislation allowing President Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.”
ADC Legal & Policy Director, Abed Ayoub stated, ““We applaud the passage of the Yemen Evacuation Amendment, and it is our hope that the Obama Administration acts immediately to evacuate the U.S. Citizens currently stuck in Yemen. Many of these citizens are losing hope, and now is the time to act. The failure of the House to take steps to close Guantanamo Bay prison is disappointing – it is our hope that the Senate takes the appropriate steps on this issue.”
The State department estimates that approximately 5,000 Yemini-Americans, of which nearly 900 have registered with StuckInYemen.com, are unable to leave Yemen after the closure of the United States Embassy in Yemen. On April 1, 2015, ADC, CAIR and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (ALC) launched the website - StuckInYemen.com - to assist in identifying Americans who are in danger and are in need of their government's assistance in getting to safety and to advocate on behalf of those stranded.
On April 9, 2015, ADC and CAIR and ALC filled of a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter seeking government action to evacuate American citizens trapped in Yemen. [NOTE: The lawsuit was filed by ADC and CAIR attorneys.]
The ongoing conflict in Yemen has made it difficult for Yemeni-Americans to depart Yemen. Close to 900 Yemeni-Americans have registered as being unable to leave Yemen after the closure of the United States Embassy in Yemen in February 2015. In March 2015, U.S. citizen Jamal al-Labani was killed in Yemen while attempting to bring his pregnant wife and 2-year-daughter back to the United States. Many other nations, including China, Ethiopia, India, and Russia are evacuating or have evacuated their citizens from Yemen.
Background on the House’s Failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay
Offered by Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Amendment 189 which provided a framework to close the prison at Guantanamo by December 31, 2017 failed to pass the House by a vote of 174 to 249 despite strong support from civil and human rights and faith groups.
Yesterday CAIR and ADC joined others in calling on Congress to vote no on final House passage of the NDAA as it included onerous and unwarranted transfer restrictions that would block the closing of the Guantanamo detention facility and continue the practice of indefinite detention without charge or trial.
Going forward advocates for closing the prison at Guantanamo will work to seek the Senate’s adoption of similar measures that will hopefully put an end to the prison once and for all.