Guest Column: It’s time to open Thomson

By U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling

In my frequent conversations with people surrounding Thomson, Ill., I’ve heard one familiar refrain: “Open that prison!”

I almost always hear a second, more urgent, message following the first: “But don’t bring the terrorists with it!”

We need jobs, and I’ve prioritized job creation in my first term. I’ve pushed for bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Rock Island Arsenal, embolden our manufacturing sector, and plan a multi-year transportation initiative to repair our crumbling infrastructure and revitalize our struggling economy.

I have also focused on opening Thomson Correctional Facility. I’ve worked tirelessly to find a bipartisan solution that would open the facility and bring hundreds of jobs to this area at a time when we sorely need growth.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen how politics can be played in Washington, and a bipartisan compromise has not yet been reached. Thomson has been treated like a political football — by the House and Senate, and by both sides of the aisle.

That’s unacceptable. Creating jobs isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue — it’s an American issue. We have an obligation to our constituents to set our differences aside and work together to get this project done.

My position on the Thomson Correctional Facility has always been clear: we need to open it as soon as possible and bring these jobs to Thomson, Ill. But at the same time, we cannot afford to risk our national security by bringing terrorists onto American soil.

This isn’t a new issue — it’s been around for 10 years. Neither Republicans nor Democrats were able to solve it when they held both the White House and Congress; if this an easy problem to solve, Sen. [Dick] Durbin, D-Ill., would have done so when President [Barack] Obama first took office, before I came to Congress less than 18 months ago.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently assured Congress, under oath, that the U.S. government would not be bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to Thomson. That’s good enough for me, and I am working along with Sen. [Mark] Kirk, R-Ill., and other members from Illinois to move the ball forward.

Next week, we plan to meet once again with U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, to request he end his opposition to the opening of Thomson Correctional Facility.

Chairman Wolf has expressed concern that Holder is not a credible witness for the Obama administration, given his involvement in multiple scandals and previous record of dishonesty with Congress. He is also bothered that the administration has previously advocated moving detainees from Guantanamo to Thomson, and as recently as last month issued a veto threat on our annual national defense bill because it would ban moving detainees to U.S. soil.

I understand those concerns, but we can’t wait on these jobs any longer. It’s time to do the right thing.

It’s time to open Thomson Correctional Facility, bring in the federal prisoners and the money that comes with them, and create hundreds of well-paying jobs here in northwest Illinois. Let’s get this done.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., represents Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, which covers much of west central Illinois.

From the July 4-10, 2012, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!