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Mr. Hill. I thank you very much for that testimony, Congresswoman Mink. I now note that
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman. May I submit a statement for the record?
Mr. HILL. Without objection.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Abercrombie follows:) STATEMENT OF HON. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE
STATE OF HAWAII Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to submit my views on Guam Commonwealth. Let me first commend you for holding a hearing on H.R. 100, the Guam Commonwealth Act. H.R. 100 is representative of the political aspirations of many people on Guam, my Pacific neighbors. It is my hope that the Committee will seriously engage the political leadership of Guam in considering the question of Commonwealth status.
It is my understanding that the Guam Commission on Self Determination has been involved in discussions with both the Bush and Clinton Administrations on Guam Commonwealth. I look forward to hearing the position of the Clinton Administration on Guam Commonwealth, but I am most interested in receiving testimony from Guam's people. It is my observation that the Guam Commonwealth question has always been a bipartisan issue. That aspect is important for us to reflect upon as we review the Commonwealth
proposal today. Mr. Chairman, the people of Guam have long expressed an unwavering commitment and loyalty to the United States. As we approach the centennial anniversary of the Spanish American War, we must also reflect on the long road that the people of Guam have tried to secure and advance self-government in their island home. No better example can be made of the need for self-government than the other pieces of legislation that the Committee will be hearing. Both the Guam Judicial Empowerment Act, which I have co-sponsored, and the Guam Land Return rovision of S.210, deal with issues that are the consequence of Guam's current territorial status.
Those of us who have the Constitutional authority to establish policies over the territories must take our responsibilities seriously. We must engage the political leadership of Guam and pursue a positive resolution to the issues they have raised. We must review the current system in place and acknowledge the need for clarity and change in the Federal-territorial relationship. The aspirations of the people of Guam should establish a foundation for the Committee's consideration and I am pleased that we are here today to initiate that process.
Mr. HILL. I now note that Congressman Becerra is here, and I will recognize Congressman Becerra. STATEMENT OF HON. XAVIER BECERRA, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA Mr. BECERRA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all the members of the committee. Let me first state that I, too, am a supporter of H.R. 100, the Guam Commonwealth Act, and I want to thank the gentleman from Guam, Congressman Robert Underwood, for his diligent efforts on behalf of the people of Guam.
Mr. Chairman, it is my privilege to come before you and the full Committee on Resources to support Guam's quest for Commonwealth status. As you know, next year marks the centennial anniversary of Guam becoming an American territory, and it is a most appropriate opportunity for the Congress to consider legislation that seeks to improve the political relationship between the Federal Government and Guam.
It has been 15 years since the people of Guam set out on a course to obtain Commonwealth status, yet the people of Guam continue to be statutory U.S. citizens and cannot vote for the President of the United States. This situation certainly is unfair and unnecessary—and Congress must recognize the importance of this issue and I hope that the committee will work closely with the leadership of Guam to make Commonwealth for Guam a reality. Our Constitution charges Congress with matters relating to the territories, and I believe that it is our responsibility to consider the will of the people of Guam and work toward Guam Commonwealth status.
Since 1990, the leadership of Guam has been engaged in serious discussions with both the Bush and Clinton administrations regarding the island's political status movement. It is now time for Congress to obtain an appraisal of this work and to act accordingly. We have to remind ourselves that every significant change in Federal policy is rooted here in the House of the people. We must be engaged and willing to consider taking bold steps that are of mutual benefit to the United States and the people of Guam.
Having been colonized by Spain more than 200 years ago, it is clear that the Chamorro people share a close cultural affinity with many of the people of America-citizens of America-who are of Latino descent. It is for these reasons that I take particular interest in the issues affecting Guam. As a Member of Congress of Latino descent, I will watch this process closely and will be willing to work and participate meaningfully in the positive resolution for Guam's quest for Commonwealth status.
I look to the leadership of this committee, and Congressman Bob Underwood, to work on this issue, and I hope that a sincere effort will be made to accommodate Guam and its noble people.
Mr. Chairman, with that, I will submit my statement. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Becerra follows:)
STATEMENT OF HON. XAVIER BECERRA, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE
STATE OF CALIFORNIA Mr. Chairman, it is my personal privilege to come before you and the full Committee on Resources to support Guam's quest for Commonwealth status. As you know, next year marks the centennial anniversary of Guam becoming an American territory and it is a most appropriate opportunity for the Congress to consider legislation that seeks to improve the political relationship between the Federal Government and Guam. It has been fifteen years since the people of Guam set on a course to obtain Commonwealth status. Yet, the people of Guam continue to be statutory U.S. Citizens and cannot vote for the President of the United States. This situation is unfair and unecessary. The Congress must recognize the importance of this issue, and I hope that the Committee will work closely with the leadership of Guam to make Commonwealth for Guam a reality.
Our Constitution charges Congress with matters relating to the territories and I believe that it is our responsibility to consider the will of the people of Guam and work toward Guam Commonwealth status. Since 1990, the leadership of Guam has been engaged in serious discussions with both the Bush and Clinton Administrations regarding the Island's political status movement. It is now time for Congress to get an appraisal of this work and to act accordingly. We have to remind ourselves that every significant change in Federal policy is rooted here in the House of the people. We must be engaged and willing to consider taking bold steps that are of mutual benefit to the United States and the people of Guam.
Having been colonized by Spain for more than two hundred years, the Chamorro people share a close cultural affinity with Latino people. It is for these reasons that I take particular interest in the issues affecting Ġuam. As a Latino member, I will watch this process closely and will be willing to participate meaningfully in the positive resolution of Guam's quest for Commonwealth Status. I look to the leadership of the Committee and Congressman Bob Underwood to work on this issue and I hope that a sincere effort will be be made to accommodate Guam.
Mr. HILL. I thank you, Congressman Becerra, and I would now like to recognize former Delegate Ben Blaz. STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE BEN BLAZ, FORMER
DELEGATE, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Mr. BEN BLAZ. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Miller, and members of the committee. First let me thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify on behalf of H.R. 100.
I must say that the view from the beachhead down here is a bit different from the pompous head up there. The configuration here does look like part of a coliseum, and you wonder why the witnesses from time-to-time feel like gladiators—the Caesars sit up there. But there's something interesting about this particular setting. The banner behind you, Mr. Chairman, is star-spangled, and the supporting colors around it include my beloved Guam. We're in friendly territory, and I feel very comfortable, thank you.
A hundred years ago, when Henry Glass, Captain Henry Glass of the Navy, sailed into Guam, after a couple of days he probably sent this message: "Guam captured. Spanish prisoners under control, but the natives keep asking me what their status is.” It is likely that the response came back rather tersely and probably stated: “Political status is not your domain. Proceed to Manila. Join Admiral Dewey.” And you know the rest of the story.
But whether or not political status was the domain of the Navy for the ensuing 50 years, it dominated Guam. So much so, Mr. Chairman, that when I graduated from Notre Dame and was commissioned an officer and I wanted to go home and strut my uniform and medals before my village friends, I couldn't go because I did not have the proper security clearance. Following that, we were transferred to the Department of the Interior and there, often, we felt like wards, and often the administrators acted like wardens.
We're now 100 years into this situation. What I'd like to point out is that in areas where the people of Guam have control in what they do, they have done exceedingly well. When we speak about self-determination, we instantly associate political self-determination, but gone unnoticed, and to the credit of the people of Guam, they have done exceedingly well in trying to preserve their identity, their culture, and their language, and they have kept themselves from being a mere footnote in history. They have attained cultural self-determination.
And despite the plethora of regulations and instructions and laws that were written for other places at other times, they have managed to succeed and attain a very significant measure of economic self-determination, but the one thing that is needed to solidify the foundation is beyond the capability of the people of Guam themselves, and that is political self-determination.
I know we have limited time, and earlier today Congressman Underwood gave us the 2-minute warning without any timeouts. So it's kind of difficult, quite frankly, to cover 100 years in 100 seconds. So I'll take more than 100 seconds and say to you that in this body, which uses from time-to-time the logic, or de-logic, that this cannot be done, because it will set precedence if you can't set precedence in the House of Representatives, there ain't no place on earth where you can set precedence. If you can take I don't have
any quotations from legislature to show the legislative intent as to why we're in this situation.
So let me just end my presentation by getting a quotation from a Founding Father, and here's the quotation: “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him as a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I just want to say that what Guam is asking, it has been asking not since 1987, but in every decade of this century. A hundred years is a long time to wait in line. Thank you, sir. [The prepared statement of Mr. Ben Blaz follows:)
STATEMENT OF BEN BLAZ, GUAM, FORMER DELEGATE FROM GUAM Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: I thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of H.R. 100, the Commonwealth Act for Guam.
I am Ben Blaz. I am a Chamorro, a native son of Guam. I am now retired from Public Service, having served 30 years in the Marine Corps and 8 years in the House of Representatives as the Delegate from Guam (1985-1993). I will be seventy years old in a few months, on the 100th anniversary of the incident that triggered the Spanish-American War in 1898. Although it lasted less than 4 months, its impact is felt to this day by both Spain and the United States and, most especially, by the entities that were ceded to the United States as prizes of the war.
It has been a while since I have been in this room. Were I to send a message back in the manner that I used to do in my days as a soldier of the sea, it would read something like this:
Landing successful. No hostile fire. Advise all units that there is wide open terrain in immediate front which is elevated at other end. Be further advised that the center pole flies the stars and stripes of our country surrounded by flags of supporting units including the flag of Guam. Friendly forces now in sight; link-up imminent. Advise all units to move smartly. About a century ago, the U.S.S. Maine, anchored in Havana Harbor, was blown ụp under mysterious circumstances. The incident gave birth to the war cry, Remember the Maine, To Hell With Spain. About 4 months later, Captain Henry Glass, in command of the U.S.S. Charleston, received orders to sail to Guam, capture it, and report back when that has been accomplished.
On the morning of June 22, 1898, Captain Glass most likely sent a message along these lines: Mission accomplished. Guam captured; enemy soldiers under my control. What am I to do with the thousands of native Chamorros who are inquiring about their status? The response was probably: Civil Administration is not a matter of your concern. Proceed to Manila Bay. Report to Commodore George Dewey for duty in connection with the Philippines campaign.
In the ensuing 50 years, Guam had a rocky relationship with U.S. military governance. In 1950, it was placed under the cognizance of the Secretary of Interior where it has remained for almost half a century. In those 100 years, Guam has indeed enjoyed the benevolence of the United States in terms of financial assistance. At the same time, however, the people of Guam have become increasingly frustrated by the benign neglect of its persistent quest for a well defined, participatory policy, with respect to its relationship with the Mother Country.
The bill before Congress today has been characterized as something relatively new but the history books reveal otherwise. They are replete with references of attempts by the local population in every decade of this century to improve our relationship with our country. I recall vividly a letter I received from my father while I was a student at Notre Dame in 1950. He was greatly troubled by the modified version of American citizenship that was envisioned in the Organic Act. He argued, and rather strongly, that the Organic Act for Guam, if enacted, would lock in law a sta
tus that he said would make us Associate Americans, or, as he stated it another way, Americans with an asterisk. He was adamant in his belief that he would rather not be a citizen at all than be a half hearted one. He feared that it would take another fifty years to change that status, if at all, once it is etched in the stone tabloids of Public Law. His stance on the issue did not endear him to his contemporaries who had campaigned so fervently for U.S. citizenship. He went to his grave with his sentiment unaltered. In time, his reservations proved eerily prophetic.
Significantly, the sitting Governor of Guam and the two former Governors who will testify today, are all grandchildren of men who were very active at the turn of the century in their efforts to rid Guam of the designation, possession, and all that the term implies, and bring about a closer relationship with America. While the designation was modified at mid-century to unincorporated territory, the meaning has remained unchanged: Guam is not an integral part of the United States.
This fact was made very clear to me during the 8 years I served in the House of Representatives. I was listed as a Member of Congress but I was not considered one of its Members. Although there was an attempt in recent years to elevate the status of the five Delegates to the Congress by giving them the right to cast a vote on the floor, that, too, had an asterisk with an exclamation point indicating that when their votes counted in the outcome, they are voided. In other words, when they counted, they didn't.
But we have been included repeatedly in the areas that really count. In the most dear, the most precious, and the most basic of all tests to one's loyalty to one's country, our people have been present and accounted for in every war in which our country has fought in this century. I have traced with my own fingers the seventy names on the Vietnam Wall of the Guamanians who were killed in action in that conflict, a number notable for its size with respect to the population from which they came. My father's generation was given to saying that we are equal in war, but not in peace. When viewed from the perspective of casualties in war on a per-capita basis, the proportion is not in our favor. We cannot even claim equality in war.
While the term Self-Determination has more or less been taken to mean political Self-Determination, there are two other areas in this category that have gone essentially unnoticed. The first of these has been the conscious effort of my people, the Chamorros of Guam, to preserve their language and their culture as a distinct people on the face of the good earth. This insures that we do not end up as a footnote in the history books as an extinct people. In this area we have succeeded in achieving Cultural Self-Determination.
Similarly, Guam has attained a significant measure of economic self sufficiency while gingerly picking its way through a plethora of inhibiting laws and regulations, many of which were written for other places at other times.
Nevertheless, Guam has managed to get closer and closer to achieving another milestone Economic Self-Determination.
The enduring quest for the part that would give us a solid foundation upon which to build as we prepare to enter the 21st century, is one that is beyond the capability of the people of Guam to accomplish by themselves Political Self Determination. On the particulars of the bill before the Committee today, and, in deference to their respective offices, I yield to the leadership-our distinguished Governor, Carl Gutierrez, and my esteemed successor, Congressman Robert Underwood.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege of escorting 50 veterans celebrating the 46th anniversary of our commissioning as Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps. No one in the group had ever been to the House floor and few had ever visited the Capitol but all indicated a desire to do so and to say a prayer in silence in the House of the People. When we reached the floor, the group gave thanks for being spared our lives and expressed appreciation for the privilege of serving the United States in the field of battle. I stood in awe of my aging comrades whose sense of love and devotion to America was strengthened, not weakened, by the passing years.
It was a precious moment that tugged the heart and wet the eyes. As I watched these old warriors look about the House chamber with great pride and admiration, I lamented the fact that I could not share the moment with my former colleagues. It was a very inspiring and reassuring scene to witness on the House floor. We have often heard the question, how did we happen to have a wonderful country such as this? The answer is that we have great citizens such as these. And among them are the people of Guam.
Understandably, the U.S. Constitution was specifically designed to apply to the States of the Union. Provisions were made to insure uniform application of laws to all states and to territories that are embryonic states. Imbued with the notion of preserving the Union at all costs, there prevailed a kind of circle-the-wagons syndrome in the early days of the nation punctuated by pronouncements that the United States was not interested in aggrandizing itself with land acquisitions abroad.