The Guantanamo detention facility was opened in 2002 at a US naval base in southeastern Cuba to detain terrorism suspects.
At its peak, Guantanamo prison held 800 prisoners. It now holds 91 suspected members of terrorist groups.
The prison has been criticized for harse treatment of prisoners and less than transparent legal procedures. Mistreatment and torture of detainees has tarnished the US image as a model of freedom and human rights.
President Obama promised to close Guantanamo when he took office in 2009 but has not achieved that goal.
Guantanamo prison closure is a presidential priority
Delivering his new plan to Congress, Obama said keeping this facility open is contrary to US values. The detention center at Guantanamo Bay does not advance US national security, but undermines it, Obama said.
He assured Americans that terror suspects can be safely detained in the US and he doesn’t want to leave the Guantanamo issue for his successor.
Obama proposed transferring between 30 and 60 detainees to several possible locations across the US without mentioning specific places to avoid sparking more controversy during the presidential election.
The Pentagon estimates it will cost US$290 million to US$475 million to close Guantanamo and relocate the detainees, but the closure will save the US US$85 million annually.
Republicans strongly oppose closing Guantanamo. Senator Mitch McConnell said the plan involves transporting dangerous terrorists to the US.
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress has made it clear that bringing terrorists to the US infringes US law.
He said that President Obama has yet to convince the American people that moving Guantanamo terrorists to the US is smart or safe.
Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul said it’s unbelievable that the President wants to move or release terrorist jihadists.
Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have said they want to keep open the military detention center in Guantanamo Bay and load it up with more terrorists.
Republicans say that under President George W. Bush, about 20% of 532 Guantanamo detainees returned to terror activities after being released.