Illinois Offer Reignites Guantanamo Debate
By Stateline Staff
The prospect of creating thousands of jobs in Illinois has led Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and other Democrats to offer up a little-used, maximum-security prison in the state as a potential destination for detainees now housed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As economic development projects go, however, few are as politically explosive.
Quinn sees huge economic potential in the plan, providing "the kind of enthusiasm no other governor has offered" to the Obama administration, The New York Times reports . By some estimates, the paper reports, the proposal could provide as many as 3,200 jobs and shave the local unemployment rate - in a rural area about 150 miles west of Chicago - in half.
Quinn called the plan a "great, great opportunity for our state," according to the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the proposal.
Republicans see a threat to public safety that outweighs any economic-development benefits.
"As home to America's tallest building, we should not invite Al Qaeda to make Illinois its number one target," U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a candidate for the U.S. Senate, said.
Why is the $140 million facility vacant and being considered as a place to house those believed to be connected the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks? Ironically enough, Illinois "could not afford to staff (the prison) as state revenues began a steep decline after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Illinois isn't the only hard-hit state where some political leaders have expressed interest in housing Guantanamo Bay detainees. Prisons in Michigan and Montana also have been mentioned - with similar political opposition taking root.