The New York City Bar is urging President Barack Obama to release the 86 detainees at Guantánamo Bay who have been cleared for release immediately, and to "take concrete steps" toward shutting down the prison completely.

In a letter dated May 3, the bar association said that the "indefinite detention of these individuals has become legally and morally indefensible."

"The hunger strikes that have been ongoing at Guantánamo for the last months reflect the suffering and hopelessness inflicted by a policy of unjustified indefinite detention that undermines the rule of law," the letter continued. "Many of the detainees have been incarcerated for more than 11 years and see no hope of leaving the prison alive."

The letter acknowledged that many members of Congress oppose closing the prison, but said that Obama has the authority to close it himself under Section 1028 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which sets the defense budget for the year.

"We submit that the steps urged here are necessary not only to cleanse the stain on our Nation’s reputation as a staunch defender of the rule of law and international human rights but also to remove what has become a serious threat to our national security," the bar association said.