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Guantanamo in Illinois: GOP-fueled opposition growing. Obama White House braced for fight

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Updated Sunday 8:11 p.m. eastern

WASHINGTON--Illinois elected officials and candidates are dividing on party lines over relocating detainees at the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba to a maximum security lockup in northwestern Illinois. On Monday, the politics on this skyrocket.

While a federal team arrives in Thomson, Ill. for a site visit to the Thomson Correctional Center, four Republican House members from Illinois will be blasting the plan.

The politics of sending Guantamo detainees to the U.S. and closing the military prison there--a key pledge of President Obama--are already red hot nationally.

In Illinois, the question quickly became poltiical because the Feb. 2 primary is just weeks away, with the marquee races in the Land of Lincoln the Senate and governor contests.Republican elected officials and candidates are opposed to the potential transfer; most Democrats who are taking a stand are open to it.

Gov. Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) held press conferences in Chicago, Rockford and Moline on Sunday to boost prospects for the federal government buying the unused prison.

The Quinn and Durbin press conferences were coordinated with the White House in advance of the site visit, part of a public relations blitz to sell the public on President Obama's plan to relocate the detainees in the U.S. Thomson is one of several sites under consideration.

On Monday afternoon the site team visiting Thomson will include staffers from the Department of Defense, Bureau of Prisons, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, a White House spokesman and a White House National Security Council member in addition to Quinn and Durbin staff, and representatives from the Illinois Department of Corrections and the State Police.

The group will meet with local officials, a few dozen community members and leaders in a visit Quinn's office helped arrange.

When a similiar site team visited a prison in Standish, Mich., last August, the group numbered more than 20 and included a White House spokesman and a member of the White House legislative affairs staff.

The GOP House members who will blast the transfer plan in Chicago on Monday include Rep. Mark Kirk, the Senate hopeful who is the frontrunner in the GOP primary. Others include Rep. Don Manzullo, whose district includes the prison; Rep. Peter Roskam and Rep. Judy Biggert.

They want the detainees kept in Cuba--and not land on U.S. soil. In a letter to Obama, the four wrote, if the suspected terrorists come to Illinois, "our state and the Chicago metropolitan area will become ground zero fo rJihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 15, 2009 3:02 PM.

Durbin, Quinn Obama White House making economic argument for Guantanmo in Illinois was the previous entry in this blog.

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