Democratic leaders in Illinois applauded a draft memo leaked to a conservative Web site Friday that they believe suggests the government is seriously considering transferring terrorist suspects from Guantanamo to their state.
The White House cautioned that the memo is merely a preparation in case such a decision is made, but Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Gov. Pat Quinn said in a joint statement late Friday that it signals "the administration has narrowed its focus" to a nearly empty maximum-security state prison in Thomson, a sleepy town of 450 people near the Mississippi River about 150 miles west of Chicago.
"Even though the final decision has not been made, we are encouraged by this development," Durbin and Quinn said. "We will continue working with the White House, the Defense Department and the Justice Department to address important questions regarding security and job creation, and finalize this agreement."
The story comes after a leaked memo wound up on the web site Big Government. Thomson, Illinois is a small town of less than 1000 people on the Northwest edge of the state. The prison is actually just outside the city limits. The area has been struggling financially since most of the prisoners were moved. As such, the city manager of Thomson cheered the decision when it was first floated in the fall.
Immediately, both Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin cheered the decision. This is a major opportunity for Republicans. President Obama's old Senate seat is up for grabs and so is the Governorship. Pat Quinn, the state's current Governor, is already on record as favoring the decision. Dick Durbin has done the same.
I haven't seen any polling but I would be willing to bet plenty that the state in general is opposed to this by a wide margin. Congressman Mark Kirk, who's running for Obama's seat, came out and opposed the decision immediately when it was first floated in the fall. All Republican candidates for both Governor and Senate should be jumping over themselves to condemn this potential decision. The Democrats have giftwrapped a huge issue and the Republicans should be doing everything they can to make this gain as many legs as possible.
It should be noted that the Obama administration has stressed that no final decision has yet been made. Furthermore, in order to move any detainee the administration would have to come to Congress for funding. So, this is still a long way away from being finalized.
That said, Big Government is already reporting a protest forming near Thomson.
“This is America and our government is supposed to be of the people, by the people, for the people, and we the people were not even consulted about this decision to bring suspected terrorists to Illinois.” Beverly Perlson, founder of the Band of Mothers, and one of the rally organizers, said during a phone interview.
The rally, organized by the Illinois Tea Patriots and the Band of Mothers, has been in the works since November when the Obama Administration’s plans initially surfaced. It is scheduled to be held three days before Christmas, on December 22, outside the State Officiated Public Meeting at Sterling High School, Sterling Illinois, at 1:00 pm.
This story is still developing and so stay tuned for updates.
UPDATE: Right on cue, here's a Rasmussen poll on Illinoisians view of moving the detainees to the state.
Fifty-one percent (51%) of Illinois voters oppose relocating some suspected terrorists from the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba to a prison in their state.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 39% of voters in the state favor housing the prisoners at the Thomson Correctional Center, a near-empty maximum security facility 150 miles west of Chicago. Ten percent (10%) are not sure.