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Guantanamo Bay prisoners may move to Ill.

November 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
As the White House pushes to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the next destination for detainees could be an underutilized facility in rural Illinois. While proponents call the idea a win-win, at least one elected official is saying, not in my home state.

The leaders of Illinois delivered a message to the federal government on Sunday.

If you've got a problem, we've got the solution.

"A state-of-the-art correctional facility that's nearly vacant, located in the village of Thomson in western Illinois; they're coming to visit," said Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois.

"They" is a federal delegation that will be coming to see the Thomson Correctional Center on Monday. The White House confirms the prison is the leading contender to receive some of the 215 detainees currently housed at the controversial Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba.

Proponents say the move could create up to 2,000 jobs in the economically stagnant area and insist the maximum security prison is safe.

"But I'd never chase jobs if I thought it would jeopardize the safety and security of my neighbors and friends," said Jerry Hebeler, a Thomson resident.

Republican representative Mark Kirk of Illinois is blasting the plan and has sent President Obama a letter saying that bringing detainees held for terror-related crimes would make his state a target for extremists.

Kirk, who's running for the president's former senate seat, adds that the government has spent millions keeping terrorists off American soil for a reason.

As for how many prisoners would end up in Thomson, Illinois officials put the number at less than 100.


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