House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Tuesday that Illinois residents would welcome the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to their state because of the "economic opportunity" their detention would provide.
"The people in Illinois were looking forward to having some people transferred there—they saw it as economic opportunity, as you may recall," Pelosi said during her weekly press conference.
Democrats have been working to help President Obama fulfill his pledge to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The military has been told to speed up its review of the prison’s 114 detainees so they can be transferred elsewhere.
The U.S. classifies Guantanamo Bay detainees as enemy combatants. Democrats have long objected to the treatment of these detainees, many of whom have not been tried in U.S. criminal court. Instead, detainees are usually tried before separate military commissions, although some are held without charge under the authority of the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Of the 114 detainees, roughly half have been cleared for release to foreign governments.
This proposal has met with resistance from military officials, who fear that detainees transferred overseas could take up arms again against the U.S. and its allies. Their concerns are not without precedent: In 2008, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate released in 2005 targeted an Iraqi police patrol in a suicide bombing, killing six.
The White House has worked to ensure that security concerns "do not gum up negotiations" with countries receiving detainees, the Washington Post reported Monday.
The rest of the prison’s detainees are considered too dangerous to leave U.S. custody. These detainees would be transferred to specially outfitted military prisons in the U.S. In her comments, Pelosi seemed to be referring to a plan to transfer detainees to a high-security civilian prison in Thomson, Illinois. This plan has since been scrapped.
Any plan to transfer Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. would come at considerable expense—and would undoubtedly meet considerable pushback from Americans, 66 percent of which oppose closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, including 54 percent of Democrats.
Pelosi blamed Republican resistance for the president’s frustrated efforts to close Guantanamo Bay.
"The problem with Guantanamo has been the resistance of the Republicans to enable that policy to go forward," Pelosi said.