Saturday, April 04, 2015

Micronesian Questions

The issue of FAS citizens, people from the FSM primarily, is something that brings together so many divergent and divisive discourses in Guam. It is something that is not easily unpacked and not easily resolved because of the many ideological contact points, overlaps and contradictions. It is easy for some to make a blanket statement one way or another, but those voices tend to consider very little. They don't account for much of the overall nebulous ideological structure that gives meaning to this issue. 

When talking about the issue of FAS citizens and their impact on Guam, so many things end up being touched upon and most people only want to admit to the relevance of one or two of those many possible discourses. We see multiculturalism giving the impression that all people are just people. We see immigrant stories, the way they play essential and often undervalued roles in sustaining economies. We see expressions of racism and expressions of anti-racism. People who shriek if race is mentioned and people who moan because race seems so difficult to discuss. There are different layers of nativism involved and colonization and decolonization become wrapped into everything. 

There is American nativism, which clashes which American multiculturalism. The idea that this is American territory and so people should have chances at American dreams and despite America's long history of brutally discriminating against various types of people, there is the feeling like discrimination is wrong. But this is complicated by feelings that the openness of people to come here isn't American in origin but Pacific, Micronesian or Chamorro. It is a local or regional hospitality. This is buffered by inaccurate feelings that racism exists elsewhere primarily in US and is something against other black or brown people and that racism doesn't exist here. For each discourse on hospitality and multicultural harmony there are multiple counter discourses that spur people to exclude, to prohibit, to deport, to protect. 

There is also an undeniable element of Guam supremacy involved and this is derived from Guam's longer association with colonial influences and the United States, and therefore the Micronesian banner of solidarity is difficult to figure out at times because the peoples of Micronesia, Chamorros, Palauans, Carolinians, Marshallese and others, don't see each other as being the same. Or only see each other as being similar or different in relation to another, either assumed to be superior or inferior group. 

The ability for a community to protect itself from "the other" those threats which are coded as originating from outside of the circle of friends, from outside of the circle of recognized belonging, whether it be cultural or political, is also always present. While all communities preach some form of acceptance of the other, they are also built around a desire to find the bad other and exclude them or get rid of them. This is a fundamental organizing principle for all communities, no matter how large or small, they are not so much about similarity, but a solidarity formed through a tacit understand of who is against us and who does not belong, who are the bodies upon which punitive speech and legal recourse can be enacted. 

But within these layers there is also the ways colonization mixes in and becomes an extra source of frustration, especially for Chamorros. The presence of these migrants is beneficial to the economy and community, but it is not something that the people here choose or had a say in deciding. For all discussions of the need to not be racist and not discriminate, that colonial truth must also be present and acknowledged. As much as we can say that Chamorros and other do not understand the plight of Micronesians we also have to acknowledge and lament the fact that FAS citizens and many non-Chamorros and other types of residents and immigrant don't understand the colonial situation of Guam and do not respect the indigenous status of Chamorros. 

Below are four different articles on this issue. Each of which touching on different aspects I mentioned above.


Piti Mayor Says All Criminal Should be Deported, even US Citizens
by Janela Carrera

Guam - Piti Mayor Ben Gumataotao has come under fire yet again for making comments that have angered some citizens in the Micronesian community. While he does not deny making those comments, he says deportation should apply to all criminals not born on Guam—even US citizens.It may have been years ago since Piti Mayor Ben Gumataotao was in the news for some distasteful comments he made regarding citizens of the Freely Associated States, but it appears some are still affected by it. One such person is Ann Marie Aten.
"I’m not from Piti but I’m here to address about your Micronesian and deporting them because I’m--my background is an army wife that served me and raised this queen," Aten says of her introduction to the Piti mayor.
Aten is married to a Chuukese man who is an active duty reservist in the US Army. She takes serious offense to Mayor Gumataotao’s comments he made years ago. At the time she was not living on Guam, her husband was stationed in Hawaii, so she did not get a chance to address the Mayor then. So this morning, Aten and her husband visited his office to raise their concerns with the Mayor and find out what issues he has with Micronesians so that they could better understand.
"So he came from the back room and he stood from the back room and I said sir, I said, saina, guahu si queen Analay," she explains. "The question was are you gonna deport us? He said yes. I said really? Saina [why would you deport us when my children and my husband are good people?]. Ilekna hunggan (he said) I stand by what I said."
"She was just standing there right in front acting like who she is, that she’s from Guam, and Chuukese and Pohnpeian and all those things and she was acting like she’s not in her right mind and she mentioned that what you just told me," Mayor Gumatotao tells PNC. "And I told her I am the one that advocate at the mayor’s council five years ago that I’d like to see, any crime committed by these people not born on Guam, I don’t care who, should go back home, should be deported."
"I wanna break the tradition of the stereotype Micronesian because I got one Micronesian that fed me and I’m a queen today," Aten argues.
So we asked Mayor Gumataotao to clarify his statements. Does he mean only non-US Citizens who commit crimes should be deported? 
"No! I don’t care who!" the Mayor says emphatically. "If you’re US citizen and you came from the state of Alaska, go back to Alaska! I want this place to be a clean island, a clean paradise because that’s where I was born," Gumataotao says.
Aten hopes that by speaking out about this issue, it would help raise awareness about the negative stereotypes FAS citizens face everyday living on Guam. She is also asking that Gumataotao issue an apology.


Homeless migrants struggle: Squatters draw complaints, raise health concerns
by Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
In a developing neighborhood dotted with a mix of apartments and newer homes near Guam Community College, worn tarp and patches of tin and wood served as a shelter for at least two people.
The middle-aged couple, one of them in a wheelchair, are displaced immigrants from Chuuk and had lived there for months without running water, proper toilets or a power supply, Mangilao Mayor Nito Blas said recently.
Neighbors complaining of feces odor prompted Blas to call police on Feb. 27 and drive the people off the property based on public health concerns. Blas had hesitated to do so at first because he said the couple had no place to go. He also did so only after receiving a written authorization from the private lot's owner.
 Days after he posted "no trespassing" signs at the property, the shack has occupants again, the mayor acknowledged. Laundry hung from an outdoor clothesline, and last Friday, when the property owner checked, there were young kids there.Such regional migrants living homeless on island highlight the local government's concern of having to provide public services for an influx of immigrants. Recently, Gov. Eddie Calvo spoke publicly to federal officials in Washington, D.C., saying GovGuam agencies were "at a breaking point" in providing these services. GovGuam wants more help from the federal government in paying the costs.

In jungles in Dededo

The situation involving other displaced migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia who live with barely a roof over their heads, without plumbing and running water, is magnified in Dededo, a village much larger than Mangilao.
Migrants from the FSM live in camping tents or shacks on unused private land, in the jungles, and on Guam ancestral land parcels without running water and sewer service, Mayor Melissa Savares said.
If the mayor's office crew finds empty tents or shacks in the jungle, Savares said they dismantle them to discourage people from coming back.
"We had to break them down. It's very unsanitary," she said.

At least dozens of FSM migrants live in Dededo without proper housing and water and wastewater service, and Savares has taken a tough stance. Some of the homeless men frequent the public parks at the front of the Dededo senior citizens center and scare residents when they appear intoxicated, she said.For those who choose to live that way, without following the rules to be good neighbors and responsible Guam residents, the Dededo mayor said she refuses to be an enabler.
 One of Savares' concerns is the lack of sewer connection for the displaced migrants. Raw sewage could contaminate Guam's primary source of drinking water, the northern aquifer, which Dededo sits on, she said.
If the migrants aren't working, get free health care and other government services and are homeless, they're a public charge, she said.
She said she has taken federal officials who visit Guam to some of the jungle areas where the homeless migrants would congregate.
She would like the federal government to be proactive in deporting those who aren't gainfully employed or aren't in school on Guam.
The Dededo mayor also wants the FSM government, whose citizens are the majority of Guam's regional migrants, to take greater responsibility by informing its citizens of their responsibilities on Guam when they get here.

Federal responsibility

The government of Guam wants the federal government to own up to its responsibility for the influx of regional immigrants to Guam.
U.S. compact agreements with the FSM, Palau and the Marshall islands allow the island nations' citizens to come to Guam and other American jurisdictions to work or study. In return, the United States has access to the island nations for defense purposes.
Citizens of the compact island nations don't go through screening that other foreigners would normally be subjected to, such as requirements to pass a health clearance or show proof of economic means and/or certain job skills.
Last year, Guam hosted more than 22,161 citizens from the compact nations, double the total from 2010, according to a government of Guam compact impact report released in January. They made up nearly 14 percent of the island's population last year. Most of the regional migrants -- 19,065 -- are from the FSM, of whom 14,216 are from Chuuk state, one of the poorest areas in the Micronesia region.

Neighborhood blight

In Mangilao, Marie Luarca's fairly new, professionally designed home sits at a corner lot whose front and side neighbors keep their yards well maintained.
However, behind her back yard, the shanty that doesn't have running water and wastewater has bothered her and some of her neighbors who own homes in the area.
"When the wind blows in our direction, the stench also follows," she said.
She questioned why the regional migrants are allowed to continue to live in such deplorable conditions.
In a recent conference with federal officials in Washington, D.C., Gov. Eddie Calvo said GovGuam agencies are "at a breaking point" when it comes to providing public services to the regional immigrants.
 GovGuam wants to bill the federal government for the $144 million it cost to host regional immigrants last year and the $856 million it has cost the past 11 years, primarily for health care, public education and public safety.
The federal government has previously stated, however, that regional migrants' contributions to the economy, through the jobs some of them hold and the taxes and consumer spending they infuse into the local economy, haven't been factored in to offset some of the strain on the host government. The federal government has provided GovGuam with $14 million to $16 million a year in "compact impact" funds.
In the conference in Washington, the governor said GovGuam's resources are strained because regional migrants who come here don't have job skills, lack education and are "unhealthy."
The governor's comments generated a debate on and PDN's Facebook page, between those who agreed and disagreed with him.

Shattered 'dreams'

Businessman Monty McDowell, who's part of a nonprofit Center for Micronesian Empowerment, which helps regional immigrants transition to life on Guam, agreed with the governor.
"He's right," McDowell said.
While some of the regional immigrants do come to Guam with job skills, there are also migrants who have no job skills and have a different view of how to live, McDowell said.

In Chuuk, which is where most of Guam's regional immigrants come from, it's OK for homes not to have plumbing and wastewater service, McDowell said. And when people feel hungry, they can ask for food from a cousin's house or pick fruit from a neighbor's yard, he said.
McDowell's business employs close to 150 regional immigrants, and the company helps the newcomers with civic lessons and expectations for how to be a good neighbor in addition to job training, he said.
McDowell said he wants the federal government to do more to help the regional immigrants.
There's not much economic hope in the islands where most of the regional migrants come from, so they move to the United States, and Guam happens to be the closest flight from home, McDowell said.
"The system stinks," McDowell said. "They come here with dreams and aspirations and end up being squatters.
"I wish they would adhere to what the compact really says, that is, people have to come for gainful employment and education. And the federal government must put some teeth to that," McDowell said.

Not all apples are bad

Suza Inaiso, a preschool and kindergarten teacher from Chuuk, came to Guam almost a decade ago when her daughter was about to enter first grade. She wanted to provide a better education for her child, so she and the rest of her family relocated, leaving behind friends and family.
She's been a preschool teacher at a Guam school under the Sisters of Mercy, which also helped her move to Guam.
When she's not working and running her household, she volunteers on Guam in her church's community activities, including encouraging youth to be good citizens. Recently, she volunteered as a poll worker for overseas voting by Chuuk citizens on Guam.
Inaiso said she tries to help young migrants understand the need to be responsible citizens on Guam.
While many regional migrants are working, contributing members of Guam's community, there are others who aren't.
But that's the same for other ethnic groups, she said.
"It's like apples -- not all are bad," she said.

Touched by hardship

At the time of the eviction, the elderly migrant couple who lived in the Mangilao shanty wasn't there because one of them was hospitalized, Blas said.
Someone who had been watching the couple's belongings was notified of the eviction, the mayor said.
The Mangilao property's owner, Shirley Lujan, said she gave Blas authorization to evict the migrants from Chuuk because some of the residents in Mangilao pressured her.
An elderly woman, Lujan said she felt for the displaced couple, and she didn't have the heart to ask them to leave her property right away because they had no other place to stay.
When she saw the man move around in crutches, and the sickly woman hand-washing clothes with rainwater, she couldn't tell them to leave, Lujan said.
Lujan said another migrant man from Chuuk helped her clean up another area of her property in Mangilao that had been used as a dumping ground for other people's trash, so she doesn't like it when people paint most immigrants in a bad light.

"They can't talk about all the Micronesians being dumpy," Lujan said.


'Limit the number of FAS citizens allowed into Guam'
by Jasmine Stole
Marianas Variety

 MARGARET Metcalfe, the Republican candidate for Guam delegate to Congress, said Guam has become an underpaid caretaker as a result of the Compacts of Free Association and is proposing to limit the number of people allowed to migrate to Guam, in order to balance the strain on the island’s resources.
Metcalfe said Guam’s borders are open and there is no regulation in the COFA that limits how many people are allowed to migrate to the island. “There needs to be some control or everyone suffers,” Metcalfe said.

Control, she suggested, comes in the form of deportation enforcement from the federal government and having a quota for the number of people from Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands that migrate to Guam.

“I think we need to find some way to put some quotas in place, just like any other state in the nation – like every other country in the world – just to make sure that we can bring people in, in a way that we can best care for our people, care for these other folks but not at the risk of losing our own benefits here for our people,” Metcalfe said.

According to the delegate-hopeful, there are about 20,000 FAS migrants in Guam and 82 percent of them are not employed but still live on island. This alone is enough cause for deportation, but Metcalfe said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has not enforced deportation.

“They’re supposed to be deportable but no one does it. The local police, the local authorities cannot do it. It has to be done by immigration, but immigration has been told by (U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder) not to enforce it,” she said.


In contrast, Metcalfe said there are only 12,000 FAS migrants in Hawaii and 82 percent of them are employed.

Metcalfe said it is provisions like these that could have been changed when the COFA was up for review in 2003 and 2011. “None of these are bullet trains. They didn’t just come and slam us. These are things that have been known for years. Why hasn’t our representative been making this information available to us before we are overwhelmed and cannot recuperate from it?” Metcalfe said.

Representatives from Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Saipan and American Samoa were included in the review of the agreement, but there was no representation from Guam, Metcalfe said. Every eight years, the agreement is assessed and the assessment makes for an opportunity to change things.

“In 2003 and 2011 it was reviewed and renewed. Both times we’ve had over 30 senators in attendance, people from Saipan, from American Samoa, people from the Virgin Islands, people from Hawaii ... zero from Guam,” Metcalfe said. “What good is it for us ... to have a seat at the table if we’re not there when it counts?”

For those FAS citizens who are currently on Guam and have become part of the extended families of local people, Metcalfe suggested to work with them so they can be productive and the overall quality of life can be improved. But in the future, she said possibly implementing a quota or a limit to the number of migrants allowed into Guam is a solution to the strain on Guam resources.

8,000 Marines vs. 20,000 migrants

Metcalfe noted that the federal government’s attitude toward Guam residents is hypocritical, when comparing the military buildup and the Compact of Free Association. “They tell us we cannot afford 8,000 military Marines because of the infrastructure,” she said. “And yet we’re allowing over 20,000 over the borders – with no limit. There are no quotas. It’s unlimited, open borders. Do you see the injustice and just the hypocrisy that’s going on here?”

If any of the 50 states were told they had open borders, Metcalfe said the state would not stand for it. She said Guam needs to put its foot down, draw a line in the sand and start making some noise. “What we’re turning into is an underpaid care-giving nation. We’re care-giving for other island nations at our own expense. That is not appropriate,” she said.


Are migration challenges faced by islanders and U.S. states fixable?

by Giff Johnson

Out-migration to the United States of tens of thousands of islanders from U.S.-affiliated islands has become a front-burner issue for U.S. states and territories hosting the largest numbers, with headlines—mostly negative—now regularly in the media. Hawaii and Guam, in particular, are raising the volume of their complaints to the U.S. federal government over lack of reimbursement for health and education costs, and other areas—Arkansas, for example, where an estimated 7,000 Marshall Islanders live—are likely to follow.
Since 1986 when the first Compact of Free Association came into effect between Washington and the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau, citizens of these three freely associated states (FAS) have had visa-free access to the U.S. to study, work and live.
The tempo of out-migration picked up in the mid- and late-1990s, particularly from the FSM and Marshall Islands, as job markets remained stagnant, and health and education services declined.
When Guam Governor Eddie Calvo said at a Washington, D.C. meeting of governors in February that FAS citizens were pushing Guam government agencies ‘to the breaking point’, and said the problem was many in-bound FAS migrants were uneducated and unhealthy, it ratcheted up official state concern about migration to a new level. This follows the state of Hawaii’s decision reached late last year, supported by U.S. courts, to stop providing expensive dialysis and cancer treatment to most FAS citizens as of March 1.
Recent estimates suggest the number of FAS citizens now in the U.S. is approaching 100,000, though more and more are American citizens by virtue of birth in the U.S. The large numbers in Hawaii, Guam, Arkansas, Oregon and Washington, to name a few, are beginning to stand out with state agencies under budget pressure as they attempt to provide health and social services with dwindling resources.
Although officials from the FAS often attend meetings to discuss what is called ‘Compact impact’, there has been little engagement overall with these far-flung communities.
Noted Micronesia commentator Fr. Francis X. Hezel observed recently: ‘Some who have chosen to remain in the islands may think of the migrants as people who have deserted their homeland when things became tough. Sometimes political figures in FSM can put their own stamp on this position, as when they state that migrants have made their choice to leave and so should be left to take care of themselves without any help from FSM government. At times, political leaders seem to regard migrants as an embarrassment on the grounds that they bring unwelcome attention upon FSM. There are, of course, abundant stories of people getting tossed into jail, or filing for federal benefits within hours after they have landed. But the real problem for those FSM leaders may be that the very number of people leaving seems to be evidence that the problems back home haven’t been fixed: lack of jobs in a struggling economy, a mediocre educational system, and the absence of the advanced health care that many require.’
The fact that these islands have some of the highest rates in the world of tuberculosis, Hansen’s disease and diabetes tends to complicate the situation of FAS migrants in the eyes of officials providing services in U.S. areas.
What can and should be done to deal with both the legitimate budget concerns of areas such as Guam and Hawaii, and the legitimate needs of a group of people who are legally in the United States pursuant to a treaty from which the U.S. government derives numerous benefits? One major problem is that a U.S. law adopted in 1996 removed Medicaid health coverage for FAS citizens, which has put islanders at the mercy of state-level health care. Since a large number are uninsured and ineligible for federal or state health insurance programs, FAS citizens tend not to seek early health care because of costs. So many end up in emergency care situations, increasing hospital costs exponentially.
A paper published in the American Journal of Public Health last month, ‘Effect of U.S. policies on Health on Health Care Access for Marshallese Migrants’, argues that U.S. federal and state health policies should be changed to extend health care coverage to citizens of the Marshall Islands and other freely associated states legally living in the U.S. and its territories. ‘Marshallese persons and all Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants in the United States (should be) treated as equal and have access to affordable, quality health care.’ Given that for most other legal immigrants in the U.S., health benefits have been incrementally restored since the U.S. Congress cut off Medicaid in 1996, it is hardly an unreasonable recommendation.
An important point made by this paper written by three U.S. university-based Americans is this: ‘Securing health care coverage for Marshallese migrant children is an important part of improving the overall health of the Marshallese community.’ This observation equally applies on the home front in the FSM and Marshall Islands, which have been unable to get a grip on communicable and non-communicable diseases that are spiraling out of control. Greater focus on improving the health of citizens resident in the FSM and Marshall Islands would have a positive impact on how arriving FAS immigrants are perceived in the United States, as well as reducing costs.
There is no question FAS countries are benefitting from the migration opportunity provided by the Compact of Free Association. With few job opportunities and stressed education and health systems, what would the FSM and Marshall Islands do if the nearly 100,000 islanders now resident in the U.S. were still living at home? In addition, with thousands of FAS citizens now employed in the U.S., albeit largely in entry-level positions, it is resulting in remittances to families back home, which is a huge benefit as economic conditions in the islands have shown little improvement in recent years. FAS citizens also fill a gap in Guam and U.S. states: they are filling entry-level and factory jobs that many U.S. citizens don’t want. In addition, hundreds of islanders enlist in the U.S. military at a higher per capita rate than Americans, the U.S. military has control of a western Pacific ocean area nearly the size of the continental U.S., and the Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands is a key part of the Defense Department’s missile defense program.
One state-level intervention shows a model for successful engagement by U.S.-resident FAS citizens. The Oregon state-based CANN—the Compact of Free Association (COFA) Alliance National Network—engaged state legislators and the governor two years ago to gain passage of a law making FAS citizens eligible for the same state identification and driver’s licenses as other Oregon residents. A 2005 federal law blocked issuance of all but temporary ID to FAS citizens, negatively affecting their ability to get jobs and housing. CANN has now gained support from legislators for the introduction of legislation to provide health care to FAS citizens living in Oregon. Though the bill may face challenges, since it was introduced at the end of January it has gained support in the media and from American military veterans, among others.
Clearly legislation and policy action at the national level would help the needs of FAS citizens living in the U.S. and is preferable to mounting multiple state-level efforts. The Oregon model suggests that active engagement with media, the community, and legislators has a positive outcome. Generally, this type of engagement by FAS government or community leaders in relation to Guam and Hawaii has been lacking except as a reaction to negative publicity or budget cutting moves, such as Hawaii has now taken to cut its spending on health care services for FAS citizens.
Relative to citizens of other nations attempting to migrate to the U.S., the estimated 100,000 FAS citizens in the United States are barely a blip on the radar and would remain so even if the entire populations of the FSM and Marshall Islands, roughly 160,000, moved to America tomorrow. In many states, they are small minority, though not so in smaller places like Guam and Hawaii.
Since both the U.S. federal government and the FAS governments benefit from the provisions of the Compact, positive action on these issues is called for. Moreover, it offers the FAS governments more than some positive public relations to engage at the federal and state level for their citizens in America—it offers a platform for addressing other issues of concern within the free association relationship. The Oregon results suggest the benefits of engagement with legislators.

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