Republican state legislators are working on a resolution they hope could keep Guantanamo Bay inmates from being moved to the federal prison in Terre Haute.
"It's unfair simply because we house a federal prison that we might be looked at as a place to harbor these terrorists," Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama has signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba within a year, and lawmakers from several states are urging the president to keep detainees out of their back yards. A task force is working on recommendations on where to put the 245 remaining detainees.
Obama has said he is confident that other countries will accept some of the detainees, and several European Union nations have said they are willing to take prisoners being released from Guantanamo if they go through security screenings.
Military officials have told Congress that possible U.S. sites for Guantanamo detainees included Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the Naval Consolidated Brig near Charleston, S.C. Others mentioned were Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Colorado's Supermax prison, which has already held Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
Some Indiana lawmakers worry that the Terre Haute prison could also be on the list. The prison's Special Confinement Unit houses federal inmates on death row. The facility has housed dangerous criminals before, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was executed there in 2001.
But Indiana lawmakers said Tuesday that Guantanamo prisoners are a greater concern because they could be part of a far-reaching terrorist network, potentially putting the state's residents in danger.
"We are asking the federal government to help us protect Hoosier citizens from becoming targets of terrorist acts," said Sen. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe.
Stutzman is sponsoring a Senate resolution that urges Obama to recognize Indiana's request to not take in any detainees. But the proposed resolution says that the Indiana General Assembly does not object to the Terre Haute prison accepting Guantanamo inmates who are justly tried, convicted and sentenced to execution.
It's unclear whether the resolution will get legislative hearings in the Republican-controlled Senate or whether a similar House resolution could clear the Democratic-controlled House. But Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican who lives near Elkhart, said public opinion is on her side.
"By and large, Hoosiers are with us on this issue," she said.