24 October 2017


Justice Department's lawsuit raises questions

The recent lawsuit brought by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the Government of Guam seeking to invalidate the Chamorro Land Trust Act raises a hornet’s nest of questions. The irony of this ill-advised litigation is so thick you could cut it with a machete. Reeking of hypocrisy, this civil action is premised on lofty moral and constitutional standards the proponents themselves have never conformed with — especially not on this island.
Where was the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division when the people of Guam were forced to surrender their lands to the U.S. military after World War II without any due process? Where was the DOJ when Guam’s landowners were later cheated in unfair condemnation proceedings, as both Congress and the federal courts later affirmed when, 30 years later, additional compensation was awarded in the Guam Land Claims Cases? Oh yeah, they were co-conspirators in that sad land grabbing episode of Guam’s sorry colonial history.
Where was DOJ’s Civil Rights Division when the people of Guam were literally poisoned by the military’s persistent use of toxic chemicals, including defoliants like Agent Orange and DDT, and illegal dumping of hazardous waste at numerous undisclosed sites on Guam? Where was the DOJ when Guam’s residents were showered with radioactive fallout after Operation Crossroads, Operation Castle Bravo and other hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific Proving Grounds?
Where was the DOJ when wave after wave of foreign workers and migrants poured into Guam and remained here long after their visas and permits expired, in clear violation of federal immigration laws? Were they conveniently looking the other way, silently supporting a “manifest destiny” that leaves the indigenous population with a minority vote?
And where was the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division when the military decided to abandon Guam’s schoolchildren and set up their own segregated, but well-funded, education system? Seems only right since their kids live on base in segregated (i.e., inside the fence) housing areas, far removed from the local community, as if they were stationed in a hostile foreign country. This isn’t housing discrimination?
Where was the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division when other federal bureaucrats decided to apply, or not apply, countless facially neutral programs and policies on Guam despite their obviously disproportionate, patently discriminatory impacts on the native inhabitants of Guam? Oh yeah, I forgot, the overlords in Washington, D.C. can still exercise absolute, plenary, insular, dictatorial powers and authority thanks to our unincorporated political status. I guess it's "organic."
Perhaps President Donald J. Trump and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III should re-examine the wisdom, and long-term consequences, of this so-called civil rights action. Perhaps they should ask the geniuses at DOJ how this movie ends. Seriously, after all the appeals are decided and the District Court of Guam has issued a writ of enforcement, do they really expect Guam’s political leadership to just give up, roll over and surrender the land? A more likely scenario has the entire CHamoru population rising up and declaring: You can take our sacred lands from us one last time, when you can pry the soil from our cold dead hands! When that day comes, mañe’lu, I’ll be down!
Oliver Weston Bordallo is an attorney on Guam.