he Obama administration is considering moving about 100 detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the nearly empty Thomson Correctional Facility in rural Illinois. The state spent $140 million building the high-security prison, but ran out of money to staff it. Illinois Democrats say hosting Gitmo's prisoners in Thomson could bring much-needed federal dollars to the state's coffers. But is a possible economic boost a persuasive reason to house foreign terrorist suspects on American soil?
Stop over-reacting — Illinois is already jailing terrorists: When Republicans heard about the Thomson plan, says the Chicago Tribune in an editorial, "they reacted as though Osama bin Laden had been given the keys to a missile silo.” Here's some news for them: Illinois already houses 35 jailed terrorists, including a 9/11 backer, and their “presence has been a nonevent.” Illinois residents know better than to "buy into the panic" being sold by House Republicans.
"Gitmo, IL" will bring danger, not jobs: These aren't your average detainees, says Rep. Mark Kirk (R, Ill.), as quoted in the Fox News website. This is the "Al Qaeda core." Bringing them here, plus 1,500 U.S. troops, will "publicly brand Illinois as the new Gitmo." Democrats are overselling the economic benefits to Thomson, with jobs expected to go to federal employees rather than locals. All this will do for the state is "make us a target".
"House Republicans dispute claim that Gitmo relocation would be jobs engine"
It makes sense, and will make money: "Hanging up the welcome flag to the likes of Al Qaeda" is hardly cause for celebration, says the Rockford, Ill., Register Star in an editorial. But these detainees "need to go somewhere" once Guantanamo's closed – and that's a policy "we happen to agree with." The risk of escape from the supermax prison is tiny, and opposing the plan seems small-minded. And besides, unloading this “colossal waste of taxpayer dollars” onto the feds is an "economic necessity."
“It makes sense for Thomson to house Gitmo prisoners
The GOP is just selling fear: The Republicans are hardly united on this, says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. Even “prominent conservative leaders" like tax activist Grover Norquist and ex-Rep. Bob Barr have urged the GOP to stop ”scaremongering." State senators like Kirk are only offering up "painfully inane reasons" for turning Thomson down. Locals, Democrats and key Republicans all support it, so this plan seems "likely to come together."
“Leading conservatives: ‘The scaremongering about these issues should stop’”
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