Housing Gitmo Inmates Not Worth Michigan Economic Boost

Friday, 07 Aug 2009 05:18 PM

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The Center for Security Policy issued the following statement today:

As a response to the Obama administration’s proposal to transfer Guantanamo Bay (“Gitmo”) terrorist detainees to a state prison in the small suburban community of Standish, Mich. (pop. 1,518), the Center for Security Policy is releasing the Michigan edition of the Center’s Interim Guantanamo Legislative Report. This Michigan Report documents the positions of all 15 members of the Michigan delegation to the House of Representatives and both of the state’s senators on two questions: 1) whether Gitmo should be closed and 2) whether the detainees should be transferred to the United States.

The Center released the Interim Report in its entirety last Friday on Capitol Hill, documenting the positions of Representatives and Senators from all 50 states. The report’s purpose is to inform citizens of their elected legislators’ statements — or silence — on Gitmo, and to provide a tool the American people can use to talk to their legislators about the future status of Gitmo and the detainees incarcerated there.

A House Divided: According to the Michigan Report’s findings, Michigan’s congressional representatives are about evenly divided on the question of bringing detainees to the U.S. Four Representatives support bringing them to the U.S. (Conyers, Kildee, Kilpatrick, Levin) and three oppose transferring them (Hoekstra, McCotter, Rogers), with eight having inconclusive positions (Camp, Dingell, Ehlers, Miller, Peters, Schauer, Stupak, Upton). Sen. Carl Levin supports bringing detainees to the U.S., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s position is inconclusive. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has stated she would prefer housing California inmates to those from Guantanamo, who she says present “homeland security issues.”

Targeting a vulnerable community: Opponents of the transfer to Michigan have raised the concern that both the prison and local community could become magnets for terrorist acts by detainee sympathizers. Unlike Gitmo, which is isolated on an island, the Standish community is easily accessible, only five minutes from Interstate 75 which is the main north/south Michigan highway, only 15 minutes from Lake Huron, which borders Canada, and less than an hour from the major city of Saginaw, Mich. The Standish Elementary School is just over two miles from the prison, and three day care centers — Little Feet, Saginaw Valley Regional, and Animal Crackers Day Care — are less than two miles from the prison.

Destroying jobs, not preserving them: Proponents of moving the Gitmo detainees to the Standish prison argue that up to 280 prison jobs will be saved in the process, since the prison is currently slated to be closed. However, the Detroit News reported that it is questionable whether Standish Max employees would in fact keep their jobs if Gitmo inmates were moved north: “Mel Grieshaber, executive director of the Michigan Corrections Organization and employee union, said it’s likely that the state Corrections officers in his union would lose their jobs to federal employees. ‘My druthers would be [to transfer prisoners from] California prisons, because Michigan Corrections officers would be staffing those prisoners.’”

On Aug. 4, two days after the Obama administration announced their proposal to move Gitmo detainees to the Michigan prison, a three-judge panel ordered the California prison system to reduce its inmate population by roughly 27 percent. The transfer of California prisoners to the Standish facility would help preserve prison jobs there without the need to transfer detainees from Gitmo.

Bringing the jihad into Standish Max: Transferring Gitmo detainees to Standish would put Standish Max prison guards at risk. It has been well-documented that the guards now at Guantanamo Bay — trained military professionals — are the target of frequent and coordinated assaults by Gitmo detainees, who see themselves as jihadist prisoners of war, religiously obligated to harm their guards. When detainees are unable to hurt their guards, they apply political pressure through hunger strikes, suicide attempts, and lawsuits.

Gitmo detainees are not like regular U.S. prisoners, as Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., a former FBI agent, noted Aug. 4 in a conference call with reporters: “These are people who are psychologically conditioned to commit murder to go to heaven . . . They bring a whole range of training with them . . . Escaping is the last thing you worry about with these people. You worry about them radicalizing the other prisoners.”

Center for Security Policy President Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., said: “While we sympathize with the fact that Michigan has been hit very hard by prevailing economic conditions, it would be highly irresponsible to transfer terrorist detainees from Gitmo into Michigan — or anywhere into the United States — at the expense of public safety and national security. The people of Michigan understand that there are better ways to save jobs than importing terrorists into the state, and we hope they will use the Center’s report as a basis for conversations with their representatives and senators on this vital issue.”

To see Frank Gaffney Jr. at the July 31 press conference for the Interim Guantanamo Legislative Report go here now.

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