'Unequivocal' no to prison
Virginia congressman still adamant in opposition to buy prison
CHICAGO – A Republican congressman from Virginia is refusing to end his opposition to the U.S. government’s purchase of Thomson Correctional Center.
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf is chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the federal Bureau of Prisons.
His office said Friday afternoon that he has “unequivocally” rejected the Obama administration’s reprogramming request to buy the prison, because he doesn’t trust the administration to follow the law.
In rejecting the request, Wolf, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, said that this $165 million earmark, requested by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “not only was never included in any bill voted upon by the Congress, but Congress has specifically denied and rescinded funding for this acquisition.”
He said he opposes it on fears that terrorism suspects would be housed there, despite the passage of a federal law barring the use of any federal funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States.
In addition, several times since last year, the administration has promised to bar such inmates from the facility and use it for a maximum-security prison. Most recently, Attorney General Eric Holder swore under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 12 that the administration will not transfer detainees to Thomson prison, even if the law were to change.
“Frankly, I do not trust the [Justice] Department or the Administration to enforce the law forbidding the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States,” Wolf said in his letter, citing the Obama administration’s one-time intent to allow two Uighur Muslims being held at Guantanamo Bay into the country in May 2009.
Wolf says the plan was illegal, based on a rider passed as part of the 2009 appropriations bill for the war in Afghanistan that banned resettling any of Guantánamo detainees in the United States – even though the Pentagon and the Bush administration conceded that the Gitmo Uighurs were not enemy combatants.
In his letter Friday, Durbin had asked that Wolf approve a Justice Department request to move $165 million from other programs to buy Thomson. Gov. Pat Quinn did the same, noting bipartisan support for the purchase.
The Justice Department has said the acquisition of Thomson, completed in 2001 and unused since, would alleviate federal prison overcrowding.
Thursday, U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, also sent a letter to Wolf, also asking him to reconsider his position, and inviting him to visit the prison.
In it, they said they understand that Republicans and Democrats may object to spending $165 million because of the tight federal budget.
They noted, however, that the prison would mean $19 million in labor income and $61 million in business sales for the area. The total annual local impact, both direct and indirect, is estimated at $202 million a year, they said.
More than 1,000 jobs would be created for Carroll County, they noted.
Read the letter U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., wrote in response to requests he reconsider allowing the sale of Thomson prison.