Obama administration to house Guantanamo detainees at Illinois prison

[JURIST] The Obama administration said Tuesday that it plans to purchase [presidential memoranda] the Thomson Correctional Center (TCC) [DOC backgrounder] in northwestern Illinois to house inmates from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. In a letter [text, PDF] to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn [official website], the secretary of state, secretary of defense, attorney general, secretary of homeland security, and director of national intelligence said that the facility will house both Guantanamo detainees and other federal inmates. According to the letter, no detainee will be released onto US soil:


The President has no intention of releasing any detainees in the United States. Current law effectively bars the release of the Guantanamo detainees on U.S. soil, and the Federal Government has broad authority under current law to detain individuals during removal proceedings and pending the execution of final removal orders.

Quinn and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) [official website] welcomed [press release] Tuesday's announcement, saying it "will have a tremendously positive impact on the local economy." Republicans are already opposing the move, with Senate Republican Conference chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) [official website] saying [press release], "I have yet to hear one good reason why moving these terrorists from off our shores right into the heart of our country makes us safer."

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration was seeking Illinois congressional support [JURIST report] for a plan to purchase the TCC to house terrorism suspects currently being held at Guantanamo. Both Durbin and Quinn have consistently favored [JURIST report] moving Guantanamo detainees to the northwestern Illinois prison facility, as it is estimated that the facility could bring 2,340-3,250 new jobs to the community and provide an estimated $790 million to $1.09 billion economic impact over four years. Not all local leaders support the possible transfer of accused terrorists to Illinois, however. In November, US Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) [official website] wrote a letter [text] to President Barack Obama, urging him not to transfer detainees to the TCC because of fears it would lead to terrorist activity in the Chicago area. Even though the prison has been chosen as a domestic facility for Guantanamo transferees, in order to hold detainees in US, Congress would have to change a law specifically prohibiting detainee transfers into the US except for trials [JURIST report].


 

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