On the eve of his visit to Kansas City, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he backs President Barack Obama’s plan to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, even if it means moving prisoners to Kansas.
In an interview with The Star, the Vermont senator said the priority is to close the facility because of the black eye it’s given the United States for years.
“Well, if we shut down Guantánamo, prisoners are going to be moved someplace,” said Sanders, who will speak around midday Wednesday at Bartle Hall.
“That’s the way it is. We have jails all over this country. And clearly, their prisoners will be put in maximum security prisons, and we will make sure those prisoners are not going to escape or anything like that.”
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The Guantánamo prison has not served America’s interests because it represents something of a contradiction to democratic values, Sanders said.
“The issue right now is when we are trying to fight terrorism around the world, and we have people who hate the United States who are saying, ‘See what they do? They just take these people and they put them in their prisons and they talk about their democratic rights and so forth.’ So this has not served us well in my view at all,” Sanders said.
The Obama administration is said to be considering sites in Colorado, South Carolina and the military brig at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
In the interview, Sanders said his visit to Kansas City on Wednesday is based on maximizing his prospects in Kansas, which holds its presidential caucus March 5. He acknowledged that the state is conservative, but he insisted the state’s Democrats are not necessarily conservative.
“In fact, what we find is sometimes to be a Democrat in a conservative state means that you’re pretty progressive,” he said. “You have to stand up to the tide there.
“So, we think we have a chance to do very, very well in Kansas.”
He conceded that he’s concerned the 3 p.m. start time for the caucuses matches the 3 p.m. start time for the KU basketball game that day against Iowa State in Lawrence.
But he said that as important as basketball and football are, issues such as stagnant wages also have their place.
“We have to get our priorities right, and participating in democracy is pretty important,” he said.