Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Broken Promises to the Territories

It is intriguing how quickly things that were once seized upon as exciting and drenched in exciting new possibilities can be forgotten or disavowed. Part of the way this happens in terms of Guam is tied to our colonial position and how we interpret minute gestures that might be faint to others, as being clear indications of our colonizer caring about us and wanting to finally recognize us and take care of us. A perfect example of this came last year when Donald Trump was running for President of the United States. His campaign was barely coherent and very narrowly focused, and the territories of the US, with the exception of Puerto Rico barely factored into his rhetoric. At the time of the Republican primary Trump sent a letter to the people of Guam which wouldn't even count as pandering, since it was so lazily written it could have been sent to any number on constituencies. Hillary Clinton's pandering letter by comparison during the Democratic primary showed a least a modicum of effort. But several one promise that caught the ears and eyes of local leaders was to create a territorial/commonwealth advisory committee that would have a direct line of communication to the president and be situated in the White House. Local leaders, especially those of the Republican persuasion quickly latched onto this claiming it a big victory, evidence that Trump might be different. Even though everything about Trump's campaign indicated that he cared little for the plight of those who are demonstrably disenfranchised or forgotten and instead was built primarily on stoking feelings of white anger over their loss of various forms of privilege in the US, these leaders still someone tried to argue that Trump truly cared about those of us in the territories.

Several months later, Trump is in the White House and nothing has happened and it looks like nothing will happen on this front. I'll leave it to former Senator Rory Respicio to provide you more updates from his Guam Daily Post column a few weeks ago.

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Trumps' Promises to the Territories
by Rory Respicio
The Guam Daily Post
February 8, 2017

President Donald Trump made campaign promises to the territories pledging that “No more will those who reside in the territories or commonwealths be ignored.” In that same op-ed piece, which was published in our local media last March, he made several very specific promises.

Since the election, however, Trump has clearly ignored the territories and started to break many of the same promises he made back in March. One could argue that he has four years to make good on his campaign promises. Still, he is already making global changes which are alarming and contrary to his commitment to the territories on matters regarding immigration, labor and how territorial matters will be handled in a Trump White House.

Empty promises

So now is as good a time as any to start keeping track to see if any of his promises are kept. The most striking promise Trump made in writing last March was his pledge that “As part of my administration, I will appoint a Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee, or TCAC, consisting of representatives from American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The TCAC will be integrated into my presidential transition team, and be tasked with performing a holistic review of all federal regulations affecting the territories and commonwealths.”

Republicans in the territories were very taken with Trump’s promise and were ecstatic when this commitment was enshrined in the platform of the national Republican Party. However, you may have noticed, Trump’s presidential transition has come and gone without any mention of a “Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee.” The latest word from Washington is that this is officially an empty promise and as such will not happen. Instead, what this so-called TCAC was supposed to do will be folded into the responsibility of the White House staffer who historically has handled Puerto Rico issues. It remains to be seen whether this will materialize or not.

Trump also made this promise to the people of the territories: "We will negotiate trade arrangements with their input, enact labor policies that help – not hurt – their unique economies and we will initiate immigration protocols that will build their communities, not tear them apart.” Indeed, that is a vague statement, but Trump framed it in his written pitch as a commitment that would meet the needs of people in the territories. So far on the immigration front, the only thing Trump has done is to grandly announce construction of his wall that he continues to claim Mexico will pay for when they repeatedly have said they will not, and to push a ban on Muslims that the courts have ruled is unconstitutional.

Labor restrictions

In further examining Trump’s executive action, or inaction on labor and immigration policies, one of the most serious concerns of communities throughout Micronesia is the tightening of restrictions on the import of skilled labor from countries like the Philippines. Regional leaders that I met with a few weeks ago at the inauguration of Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. consider these restrictions a threat to economic growth in our region. And for us living here in Guam, we believe that this will slow down the planned military buildup, hurt our local economy and further reduce jobs.
It’s not at all clear if Trump’s idea of appropriate “immigration protocols” would lead to progress on this concern, but so far there is no indication that it will. As I have mentioned in a previous column, Trump’s attitude on immigration may give Gov. Eddie Calvo an opportunity to move federal agencies to be responsive, and do its job when it comes to the deportation of habitual foreign criminals.

Impression of indifference

Trump’s recordsince his election and his inauguration as presidentgives the impression of indifference to promises he made to the people of the territories. Even though the jury is still out on how Guam or the territories will fare in our nation’s capital, our efforts must focus toward a strong "One Guam" approach, so that the people of Guam will be able to advance a fair and just agenda through the Trump administration and in the new Congress.

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