POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Illinois Republican: We Would Be "Idiots" Not To Take Gitmo Detainees

A Republican lawmaker in Illinois said his GOP colleagues would be "idiots" to kill a proposal to transfer terrorist suspects from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the maximum-security prison in Thomson, Illinois.

Representative Jim Sacia of the state's 89th District accused Republicans in Washington -- including Senate candidate, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill) -- of risking thousands of local jobs in their demagoguery of the detainee issue.

"My thinking on this is extremely positive," Sacia told the Huffington Post. "If we lose this opportunity. All I can think of is we literally are idiots. I mean that sincerely."

"I understand I'm on different pages of music with others in my party. First of all this should not be a partisan issue in anyway. If President Obama brings the detainees on U.S. soil and we sit here with a brand new state-of-the-art, max security prison, sitting vacant for the last eight years, and pass on an opportunity to sell it to the federal government, which we would fill it with 1,500 regular prisoners and 800 detainees, what is the problem? The building was designed to do that.

"The only reason we have rhetoric now is because of the closing of Gitmo," Sacia concluded. "It makes no sense at all. This is a tremendous opportunity and we would be idiots to waste it."

A town of 450, Thomson found itself thrust into the national political spotlight after Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and others pushed it as a potential home for Guantanamo Bay detainees. Defenders of the proposal say it could create as many as 3,000 jobs. Sacia, whose district is in the neighboring area, notes that when the facility was built in 2001, businesses popped up all around it anticipating that it would be fully operational. Today, only 200 minimum-security inmates are housed in the 1,600-cell prison, requiring the attendance of only 82 staff members.

"We have so many citizens in my district and bordering my district who have suffered unbelievable economic hardship because they planned for and built businesses all for a prison they believed would be open," Sacia said.

A former law enforcement official, Sacia saved one of his main complaints for those who warn that transferring detainees to Thomson would make the site a target for terrorists -- a concern aired by his home-state Senate candidate and fellow Republican, Mark Kirk.

"I saw Mark Kirk making some comment about potentially a terrorist attacking Chicago," he said. "For Christ sakes. Chicago is 150 miles from Thomson... I'm very upset about [his rhetoric]. I understand people wanting to take a stand. But before you take a stand get the facts. I didn't make a comment on this until I sat through a three hour briefing yesterday."

"It certainly wouldn't be my position if I were running for [the Senate]," Sacia added.

For Sacia, the preferred course of action would be to keep the facility at Guantanamo Bay in operation. But with President Obama committing his administration to closing the controversial detention center, he adds, "I don't see why we would not be carrying the torch say, 'Hey we have a facility that logically can be used.'"