Guantanamo's Future At Bay; Kirk And Durbin Divided

Mar 23, 2016

Old American cars are driven today in Cuba; Obama is moving to ease trade restrictions. The future of the United States detention camp on the island is also controversial.
Credit Rich Berning

Long before President Barack Obama's trip this week, the U-S has had a physical foothold in Cuba, via its naval base and prison at Guantanamo Bay. Obama's seeking to close down the detention center there. Illinois' U.S. Senators are split on its future.


Republicans like Illinois' junior U.S. Senator Mark Kirk are adamant that Guantanamo Bay prison stay open.

He recently penned an op-ed with a list of his concerns.

He says he plans to introduce a bill banning Gitmo detainees from being transferred to what he calls "terror hotspots" like Sudan and Somalia. But he also advocates a continued prohibition on moving detainees to the U.S.

"I would say to those who are defending Guantanamo Bay, they are defending spending $5 mill a year on each detainee we're holding in Guantanamo," says the state's other U.S. Senator, Dick Durbin.

Durbin who says prisons in the United States, including the Marion penitentiary in southern Illinois, already house terrorists. "So to say that we've got to maintain Guantanamo for some sort of symbol, it's a pretty darned expensive symbol," he said Wednesday.

Durbin accompanied Obama on the trip to Cuba. Durbin says he had no direct discussions with Cuban leaders about transferring prisoners. He says there's no question: Cuba wants to regain control of the coastal land on the country's southern tip, where the detention center and naval base are located.

Durbin is a key backer of Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who is facing off against Kirk for his Senate seat in the November election.