Monday, June 17, 2013

Political Status News

  Legal watchdog takes up the cudgels for Davis case

Arnold ''Dave'' Davis

PACIFIC Legal Foundation (PLF) has taken up the cudgels for Arnold “Dave” Davis’ plebiscite lawsuit, citing the courts’ role in protecting political minorities from “discrimination and marginalization” in the political process.

“Here, Arnold Davis alleges that Guam is preventing him from engaging in the political process because of his race,” PLF said in an amicus curiae brief filed Friday in the Ninth Circuit Court.

“Because he has been treated differently than other voters, he has suffered an injury-in-fact and has standing to challenge the unequal treatment,” the legal watchdog said.

The case reached the Ninth Circuit Court in January on the heels of Chief Federal Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood’s dismissal of Davis’ civil rights suit.

Davis sued the government after he was barred from registering to vote on Guam’s political status plebiscite, which, according to law, is reserved only for those who qualify as “native inhabitants.”

Tydingco-Gatewood dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, saying the case was not ripe for review since no date had been set for the political status vote. The judge said Davis failed to demonstrate that “an immediate injury or threat existed to warrant the case to proceed.”

Legal standing

In seeking the reversal of Tydingco-Gatewood’s decision, PLF argued that “a party denied equal access to the political process has standing to challenge this discrimination.”

PLF is a conservative/libertarian public interest donor-supported law firm that defends and promotes individual and economic freedom in the courts.

PLF argued that the denial of the right to vote is not the only way that members of a minority can suffer discrimination in the political process.

“If, because of his race, a person is effectively prevented from meaningful participation in the political process, he has been injured and satisfies the standing requirement,” PLF said. “Suffering unequal treatment in the political process is itself an Article III injury.

Courts’ vital role

PLF said the courts are the best venue to challenge a racially discriminatory policy.

“An individual who has been subjected to a discriminatory political process cannot expect or hope that the political branches will provide relief,” states the amicus curiae brief. “Because he has been denied influence in the political process, the political branches will not hear his plea.”

Accordingly, the courts play a vital role in protecting equality in the political process and ensuring it is free of “race-based bigotry,” PLF said.

“The Supreme Court has described this country’s history of racial discrimination in the political process as an ‘insidious and pervasive evil,’” PLF said, adding that race-based discrimination in the pre-election process “can work the same evil as denying the franchise due to race.”

In arguing on Davis’ behalf, PLF invoked a previous Supreme Court ruling which invalidated Texas’ “whites-only” primary.

“After ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment – guaranteeing the right to vote irrespective of one’s race – many jurisdictions continued to manipulate the political process to deny the franchise to politically weak races and ethnicities,” PLF said.


Former governors, other officials attend talk on territories' rights

May 17, 2013   
Written by
Three former Guam governors, the island’s former congressman and two former lieutenant governors were at the Hilton Guam Resort and Spa yesterday afternoon to learn more about a nonprofit group’s effort to achieve equal rights and representation for residents of the U.S. territories.

Neil Weare president of the “We the People Project,” outlined the organization’s goals and strategy to an audience that included former Govs. Joseph Ada, Carl Gutierrez and Felix Camacho, and former Lt. Govs. Frank Blas and Kaleo Moylan. Moylan organized the presentation, along with Bank of Guam President and former senator Lou Leon Guerrero. Former Delegate Robert Underwood attended, along with a couple dozen of the island’s business and political leaders.

 Guam, which is an unincorporated territory, has tried to carve out a specific political relationship with the United States. But a local effort to make the island a U.S. Commonwealth failed in October 1997, when the Clinton administration raised several objections to the island’s proposal.

A non-binding local vote to gauge Guam’s desired future relationship with the United States is pending.

Weare, a law school graduate and former Guam resident, noted that many of the rights afforded to Guam residents were specifically given by Congress and therefore can be taken away. Guam residents became U.S. citizens by virtue of the 1950 Organic Act. The passage of the Organic Act also made it possible for the U.S. military to use eminent domain to condemn large parts of Guam for military bases — something it could not have done if the island was not U.S. soil.

Guam has a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and no representation in the U.S. Senate. U.S. citizens who live on Guam cannot vote for president.

“So many of the decisions made in Washington determine the strength of the economy here,” Weare said, and not having a vote in Congress therefore affects Guam’s control over its economy.
And Guam’s limited power in Congress also limits its ability to pursue equal rights, he said.

“It’s like fighting with one hand tied behind your back,” he said.

American Samoa lawsuit

The group filed a lawsuit in the federal court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of a man in American Samoa, where residents are considered U.S. nationals, but unlike Guam residents, are not U.S. citizens. According to Weare, American Samoa’s status is much like Guam’s status before the Organic Act.

It’s hoped that having the courts clarify the citizenship rights of the 4.7 million people living in the territories also will help clarify the constitutional relationship between the United States and its territories, according to Weare.

Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, whose office has been gathering signatures for the island’s Decolonization Registry, questioned whether being recognized as full citizens of the United States would in any way limit Guam’s ability to determine its future political relationship with the country.
Weare said the group’s effort would not answer the question of specific political status for the territories, but it would demand that the question be answered.

Weare said it could take about three years for the legal issue to make its way through the federal court system, hopefully ending with a decision by the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the territories need to start expressing their desire for equal rights, he said.
“I wanted to launch the organization here at home,” Weare said, adding that the next step is to organize support in other territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.


 Bordallo delivers congressional address
Posted: May 30, 2013 7:10 PM Updated: Jun 11, 2013 2:10 PM
by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo delivered her annual congressional address. This is her 6th term as Guam's delegate to Washington DC. The overwhelming theme of her speech focused on a renewal of faith.

She started by talking about how we must renew our determination to take the necessary steps that will define our political relationship with the united states and to give the people of Guam the political dignity that they deserve.

Bordallo then moved to the topic of sequestration and how the across the board mandatory spending cuts have created confusion throughout the nation and uncertainty in federal programs.

Here on Guam she noted how sequestration has impacted the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, Public Health and several thousands federal workers who are impacted through furloughs. The congresswoman said Congress must develop long term agreements that reduce the deficit in a responsible manner - a solution that must include spending cuts and closing tax loop holes for oil companies and tax subsidies.

Following the issue of sequestration Bordallo talked about defense and how we must renew our commitment to the realignment of forces in the Pacific. The congresswoman said the buildup is not just about the Marines relocation from Okinawa to Guam, but also involves building resiliency at Andersen Air Force Base, and repositioning additional naval forces to the Western Pacific including more fast attack submarines on Guam.

The congresswoman however acknowledged that there continues to be strong opposition by certain members in the U.S. Senate over civilian infrastructure projects our island needs to support the current military population as well as additional forces as a result of the buildup.

She says she will renew her efforts with the help of Governor Eddie Calvo and the legislature to ensure that this buildup moves forward and the federal government pays for the infrastructure needs that they are causing Guam to undertake.  She is also hoping the leadership change in the Senate Armed Services Committee will give Guam a fresh opportunity to make its case.

Bordallo also talked about the upcoming Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement which will be conducted over the coming year on the proposed location for a firing range and the housing of Marines. She says constructive criticism of the proposal is welcome but we must formulate a final answer on these important issues. She added the SEIS is a chance for our community to show that we support the realignment and that we can do the buildup in a way that meets military requirements while protecting priorities for our island community.

Bordallo meanwhile also talked about our island veterans and how we owe it to them to ensure that they receive proper care and attention to their needs, saying, "We must renew our commitment to our veterans". Bordallo says she will be working with the Guam Judiciary to establish a local veterans' court to help veterans who may have trouble readjusting to civilian life after service.  The court would be similar to the Judiciary's Adult and Juvenile Drug Courts which provide therapeutic justice. Bordallo says by establishing a veterans court it will help veterans receive the treatment and counseling they need while providing alternatives to harsher penalties.

The congresswoman also talked about the 600 Guam Guardsmen and women deployed to Afghanistan and her recent visit there where she met with some of them.

She said, "Our Guard bravely answered the nation's call to serve, and they have done so with the attitude and outlook that makes us all proud of them".

Bordallo also honored our fallen heroes, including Sergeant Eugene Aguon and Specialist Dwayne Flores who recently passed away while on deployment.

The congresswoman says she has pictures of all of the island's fallen heroes in her office, as it reminds her every days of the extraordinary price of freedom.

On the issue of war claims she said we renew our dedication to justice for our manamko and we renew the fight for war claims in the 113th Congress.   The congresswoman said however as we all know to well we live in a time of fiscal austerity for our island and our nation where finding a resolution to this longstanding injustice requires us to look for creative solutions that will satisfy fiscal conservatives in congress.

Borallo talked about her proposal to use additional Section 30 money above Fiscal Year 2012 levels that Guam will receive from federal taxes remitted to our local treasury as an offset to address objections raised by fiscal conservatives. She emphasized though that the offset is intended to be used as a placeholder that will enable war claims legislation to be authorized by congress so the department of justice can begin the claims process. She says once all the claims have been collected and the amount to be paid is known she will work with the Obama Administration to get an appropriation for the claims in the president's budget.  She added this is the strategy that each of her predecessors would have relied on and the Obama Administration has consistently supported their efforts to resolve the longstanding issue.

As for the issue involving the expansion of the Guam CNMI visa waiver program to include Chinese visitors under parole authority.. Borallo said we have made progress over the past year to get past bureaucratic obstacles.  She said that although the challenges over security concerns are significant she is convinced there are ways to appropriately mitigate those concerns posed by visa free travel for Chinese visitors.

On to the issue of compact impact Bordallo noted the financial challenges ahead facing every district adding the federal government simply does not have the money to support every obligation we have and the tone in Washington is to cut spending at every level of government.  She said she has proposed language in a territorial omnibus bill that would expand on language she sponsored in the 2010 NDAA that permits GovGuam to utilize unreimbursed compact impact as an offset to purchase the Navy's water and waste water system. The language would require the secretary of the interior to certify the amount of unreimbursed compact impact that the affected jurisdictions have incurred and credit this amount as in kind contributions for local matching requirements for federal programs. Bordallo said she would continue to work with key leadership in the House and Senate on the idea.
Meanwhile the congresswoman also talked about the Affordable Care Act saying that despite the many improvements the ACA made to improving quality and access to healthcare. She recognizes that the law is not perfect and navigating through how the various provisions apply to Guam has been a challenge for local stakeholders. She said her office is working closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure these questions are answered and will also continue to work with local policymakers and stakeholders to ensure the original intent of the health care law is realized by our people.

On taxes Bordallo said now may be the time for our local leaders to re-evaluate whether it is prudent for Guam to continue to mirror the internal revenue code or if we should create our own tax code that specifically addresses local needs and is not subject to congress' consideration of national needs.  She said she would support any decision from local lawmakers but a renewed interest in Congress to reform the tax code may lead to additional burdens on our local treasury. "Let us renew our resolve to put Guam on a firm tax foundation for our future".

One interesting note in her address was her mention of gambling which has been a hot topic lately the congresswoman called on the community to renew its commitment to fight outside interests who are looking for every which way to bring casino gambling to Guam through repeated ballot measures. These outside interests with their deep pockets have been rejected and rebuked 5 times our people.
The congresswoman ended her speech the way she began by talking about the need to resolve our political status.  Bordallo saying this decolonization process is perhaps the single most important long term priority for our island, and we must renew our commitment to making this effort.

In her concluding comments the congresswoman asked that we renew our faith in each other and in our people so that we will pursue, together, common purposes and common goals.


Lack of Funds for Political Status Education Campaign Remains an Issue for Decolonization Committee

Guam- Decolonization Committee members had to cancel their Wednesday meeting at Adelup because they lacked a quorum. Executive Director Ed Alvarez and Senator Rory Respicio did not attend because of other commitments.

Members were supposed to give an update on the Independent, Statehood and Free Association task forces. They were also supposed to agree on a format for position papers on immigration, the military buildup, globalization and other issues.

Decolonization Committee member Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua says they've been working the last couple months to create a format for updating those papers. He notes the position papers were last updated 13 years ago when the commission was last active.

“Each status is supposed to make their argument for how this topic is affected by our status. So these position papers are really, really important in terms of getting the process started, getting an educational campaign started,” said Bevacqua.

Funding is also another issue for the committee. Bevacqua says there is no money for the public education campaign to educate voters on how the three status options will affect the island.

Meanwhile, Bevacqua says he recently took a trip to Okinawa with Executive Director Ed Alvarez to discuss the question of political status. He mentions the colonial histories between Guam and Okinawa are very similar and Okinawa wants to learn how to improve its own political status as well. He hopes to have Okinawan representatives come to the island in the near future to exchange ideas with the Decolonization Committee.

No word yet on when the commission will reschedule their meeting.

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