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That feeling was not shared by many influential people who wanted to acquire strategically located islands in the Atlantic and the Pacific for use as forward bases to protect the homeland in North America. The Spanish-American War provided America the opportunity to make the acquisitions it needed and, as a consequence, acquired Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Atlantic and the Philippines and Guam in the Pacific.
Cuba and the Philippines left the family a long time ago. Significantly, the citizens of both places continue to comprise a very large proportion of the immigrants to the United States. Similarly, Puerto Ricans and Guamanians also migrate to the U.S. mainland but they arrive as American citizens, having acquired them through collective naturalization decades earlier. These resettlements from Guam and Puerto Rico come about primarily in pursuit of opportunities and services not available in their home islands. For the longest time, many people believe that many of the benefits that they do not receive in their island communities was due to prejudice against island people. This, of course, is not an accurate view. Were, say, Members of the Natural Resources Committee to establish residency on Guam, they, too, would no longer enjoy some of the rights and privileges that they received as residents of States of the Union.
The plenary powers of the Congress have been upheld over the years in the way that it "administers” the off-shore territories. Unfortunately, because the Uniformity Clause does not apply to the flag territories, it has resulted in an aggravating lack of uniformity in the application of U.S. laws and regulations that often defy reason and logic. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld Congressional actions in the past and can be expected to continue to do so in the future. A paraphrasing of a passage in the Bible aptly describes the existing condition: Congress giveth, Congress taketh away.
What Guam seeks is an arrangement whereby its relationship, with the United States is based on a mutually agreed document that is fair to both entities and without prejudice to either. For those who feel that the status quo is sufficient and are riveted to making no changes, the words of one of the greatest of America's early leaders seem particularly appropo:
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, in. stitutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
The author of these words once prompted President Kennedy to tell a group of American Nobel Prize winners who were being honored at a White House dinner that there had not been such a collection of genius gathered under its roof since Thomas Jefferson dined there alone. We take great pains today to insure accuracy of entries in the record of colloquies and verbatim accounts of debates to establish clearly legislative intent behind various pieces of legislation.
(Not Available.) very accurate indications of their thoughts as they pondered nation-building. Even in the days of the American Revolution, Jefferson foresaw the need for changes in laws and institutions to go hand in hand with the human mind as new discoveries are made and we become more enlightened.
You are likely to hear today a cacophony of voices from the witnesses but I urge you not to misread their meaning. Multiple layers of disappointment, discouragement, and frustration have been building up for many years over the issue of Guam's relationship with America. What have been very difficult to fathom are the contradictions and disparities in the way we do things at the national level.
For a nation that has won the respect and envy of peoples everywhere for its willingness to commit its resources, human and material, to fight in foreign lands in the name of freedom and democracy on short notice, it reverts to glacial speed in its handling of affairs of its own citizens. For a nation that is widely acclaimed internationally for welcoming immigrants to its shores, it struggles trying to accommodate those under the American flag who live in the land of their own nativity: Indians, Eskimos, Hawaiians, Samoans, Chamorros. For a nation that reserves huge acreage of land on islands for the day when birds return, it does little to eliminate the snake that eats the eggs which come first. For a nation that devotes so much money and energy for the protection of fishes and birds, it has a bureau for the Indians and drawers for other Native Americans. It is against this background that one can begin to appreciate the tone and tenor in which the witnesses present their arguments in behalf of a different relationship with the United States.
Guam has both the fortune and misfortune of being located where is 13 degrees North, and 144 degrees East. Because of that happenstance, Ferdinand
Magellan's ships with its emaciated and diseased crewmen had the good fortune of drifting into Guam on the waves of the Equatorial Current in 1521. Unfortunately, over the centuries since, Guam has found itself in harm's way as nations fight for possession of it because of its importance as an anchorage and refueling station for ships from elsewhere headed somewhere.
Mother Nature has not been very kind to Guam either. Located as it is in the typhoon belt, it receives more than its share of typhoons and, occasionally, earthquakes to rearrange a few buildings. Like the legendary Phoenix of Greek mythol. ogy, however, Guam rises from the ashes and starts all over again and it now appears we are on the good fortune cycle.
Guam's very location geographically, which has been its damnation in a manner of speaking, has become its blessing. As the whole world sharpens its focus on the Pacific and Asia as we enter the 21st Century, Guam finds itself no longer a doormat, but a turnstile, to the Asian mainland. The visit to America this week by President Jiang Zemin of China punctuates the enormous significance of a cooperative relationship between our nation and China. A prosperous and stable Guam under the U.S. flag would serve the best interests of the United States and the people of Guam.
Extending the symbolism of good fortune into the future, Guam is virtually perfectly located in the world to bring about a monumental reality. Its location along the equatorial line with a constant sea surface temperature of around 80 degrees in the proximity of the deepest deep in the world, makes it the ideal location to har. ness the sun's energy via the sea. With unlimited supply of sea water and tropical sun, and the technology to do this economically, an alternate source of energy which is environmentally pure is staring at us from Guam.
Guam has been referred to as a ward of the U.S. in years past. And those who have had jurisdiction over the island have acted as wardens. But that was yesterday. It is now tomorrow. And, as Mr. Jefferson so eloquently stated, “as new discoveries are made, new truths are discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times."
Over the years, we have heard a thousand nays. What Guam hopes to hear today are a few ayes. I urge you to find a way to say yes to Guam's plea for closer relationship with the United States. That is what the people of Guam opted for in a plebescite a few years ago. If the Congress has the power to extend the provisions of the U.S. Constitution selectively to say no, the question then becomes, could the Congress use the same argument to say yes? I think it could. It's time. A hundred years is a long wait in line.
Mr. HILL. I thank the gentleman, and I thank the panel for their testimony, and I want to remind members that committee Rule 3(c) imposes a 5-minute limit on questions.
The Chair also wants to inform members that Deputy Secretary Garamendi has to leave shortly to catch an airplane, so let me first see if there are any questions on the majority side.
Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Chairman, I'm Billy Tauzin from Louisiana. I have to chair a hearing in just a couple of minutes in another very important committee, the Commerce Committee, but I came specifically to let the people of Guam know—and particularly the three living Governors who are here who have traveled so far to be at this hearing of the fine work that Congressman Underwood is doing on behalf of the pursuit of Commonwealth status for the people of Guam.
You should know that he has not only helped convene this hearing and organize this very important learning experience for all of us in Congress, but he has personally visited with each one of us in our offices to educate us on the issues and to bring us into full appreciation of the wishes and aspirations of the people of Guam.
I want to commend our colleague Robert Underwood for the great work he is doing, and beg his indulgence to the fact that I must go chair another hearing, but that we will evaluate carefully, the written testimony that we have before us. And I want to thank him
on behalf of our committee, and those of us who have to make important decisions like this, for his great efforts at educating us and preparing us for the decisions we make on the future status of Guam.
Robert, a job well done, and I commend you for this hearing, sir. Mr. HILL. I thank you, and any questions from the majority?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to pay a special welcome to Ben Blaz. I just think it's terrific to see him again. His contributions here in the Congress over the years are well recognized by those of us who had the privilege of knowing him, serving with him, and learning from him. And I particularly appreciate both the content and the passion and the history behind his comments today.
Mr. HILL. I thank the gentleman. Any other questions from the minority?
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Mr. Chairman, I, too, would like to say a few words, and especially to welcome our good friend, Congressman Becerra, for his presence, and also a very
distinguished former colleague of this committee and a Member of this body, former Congressman Ben Blaz, as Neil had stated earlier, for his presence.
If there's anything that I would like to pay a special tribute to, to former Congressman Blaz, it is a statement that pretty well applies not only to the good citizens of Guam, but certainly to all our Pacific Islands community. And I've quoted this statement by Congressman Blaz because I think it's so apropos, even in our hearing today, and I would like to restate it again as a reminder to my colleagues in the committee.
And Congressman Blaz said, as far as Pacific Islanders are concerned and as something for members of this committee and Members of this body to consider seriously, he said, "You know, it's a funny thing about Pacific Islanders, the fact that we're U.S. citizens, we owe allegiance to the United States. We are equal in war, but not in peace.
And I think the consideration of H.R. 100 personifies exactly what Congressman Blaz has said over the years. And the fact that we fight and die in all wars in defense of this great Nation, yet we see some 175,000 U.S. citizens living in the territory of Guam being denied the very essence of what American democracy is all about.
Now Mr. Chairman, I don't know if the members of our committee realize, this is since 1982 that the people of Guam voted by more than 75 percent in favor of a Commonwealth status relationship with the United States. And then, 15 years ago—15 years ago—this took place in that referendum. Eight years ago eight years ago—we held a hearing on this very same issue.
And Mr. Chairman, I have your copy of some 100 pages that were written by former Secretary of the Interior, Mannie Lujan, a former Member of this Congress, dated August 1, 1989, containing the memorandum of the very essence of all of the provisions of the things we're discussing today. Eight years ago—and now we're here today and we have not even moved an inch.
This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue, Mr. Chairman. This is not an issue between liberals and Democrats. This goes to the very heart and soul of what American democracy is all about, and I commend my good friend, the gentleman from Guam, for pur
suing this, as much as for what Congressman Blaz had tried 8 years ago that we still have not paid attention. We just don't seem to get it.
And we're at the height of condemning and doing all that we can-talking about human rights violations and Jiang Zemin's current visit here in Washington—and yet we're denying this very fundamental right to our own citizens—to our own citizens—who don't vote for the President and who are willing to die and fight for the defense of our nation.
So those are just a couple of my observations at the hearing. And I'd like to say, Mr. Chairman, I'm very happy with the Republican majority. We're killing two birds with one stone-H.R. 100 and Senate bill 210—and I think it's fantastic, and I commend the chairman of our committee, Mr. Young, for taking these two pieces of legislation both in hand and hope that we'll get it out of here. I sincerely hope that we'll even mark up these two pieces of legislation after the hearing, as has been the practice of our majority friends. I think this is the best way to do legislation.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. But I want to commend the chairman of the committee for bringing these two pieces of legislation that are not only important to our friends from Guam, but certainly important for the other insular areas. And I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and look forward to hearing from our members, both of those from the administration, and also the good people and the leaders of Guam. Thank you.
Mr. HILL. I thank the gentleman. If there are no further questions, then I would like
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. Mr. Chairman, I'd like to have
Mr. HILL. The gentleman is recognized. I would just remind the gentleman that the Deputy Secretary does have to leave here shortly for an airplane, if we want to hear his testimony.
Mr. ROMERO-BARCELÓ. All right, I will be short, brief. I just wanted to greet our friends here and our colleague, Xavier Becerra, and former Member, Ben Blaz—I've never served with him, but I've heard very good things about him—and thank you for being here with us today.
And as being from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, I understand all the frustrations that you have in Guam and that all the other territories have. We are still also striving for our right to vote, our right to representation, and I'm sure that our chairman, Mr. Young, also remembers the frustrations when Alaska was not a State, and so did our previous two persons who testified, Senator Akaka and Congresswoman Patsy Mink, who also remember when Hawaii was not a State, and there were territories.
And sometimes we're asked whether we are U.S. citizens. When I was a Governor of Puerto Rico, I remember I made a recommendation to the Agency for International Development for someone to be appointed
who met all the requirements for the person that they were looking for for the position, and I got back a letter from the director of the Agency thanking me for my interest and saying that it was a very highly qualified person, and that he probably would have appointed him had it not been for the fact
that he could only appoint U.S. citizens. So, this is from the head of an agency; this is a continuous frustration that we do have.
And right now, when Congress has approved health care insurance for all children of America, all the statements that were made during all the hearings and publicly by everyone involved with the bill that was passed on health care insurance for the children of America-it said for all the children of America. But in the final moments, when the bill was adopted, in the negotiations between the Congress and the President, it turned out that Puerto Rico and the territories were given a different treatment, and we were not given equal participation. So there's even discrimination against the children in something like health care. When some things like that happen, something has to be done.
So, this is why I'm very glad that we're here today, and I commend my colleague, Bob Underwood, for the job that he has done. There are so many issues that are similar to those of Puerto Rico. Some of the things I see that Guam wants, we're rejecting in Puerto Rico—some of us are, some are accepting it.
But it's a very, very intricate issue, and it's very complicated, but there is one overriding concern. And that is that, as U.S. citizens, in this day and age, our Nation and our President and our Congress cannot go about bragging about this example of democracy throughout the world because we are remiss. There are millions of citizens, including 3.8 million in Puerto Rico who are U.S. citizens, who are disenfranchised, and that has to be solved.
So, I think these hearings are very, very important, and I'm glad to be here and have the opportunity to be a member of this committee and participate in this hearing. Thank you very much for your presence here.
Ms. CHRISTIAN-GREEN. Mr. Chairman, could I just-I would be
Chairman YOUNG. Mr. Chairman? Mr. Hill. I thank the gentleman. I would like to recognize the Chairman of the committee.
Chairman YOUNG. Mr. Chairman, I would encourage the people in the back of the room, if you would like to immediately come up here and fill these chairs up so the ones in the hall can come in. Let's do some movement here. I want those people in the hall up here-out by the door. Come on in; move it up. Fill these seats so that now those in the hall can come in. After all, as Mr. Farr says, they've been flying 18 hours. As long as you're not press, now—I'm not talking about press.
All right. You didn't fly 18 hours—no, she's from Guam. Now, those out in the hall, come on in, as many as you can.
Mr. HILL. I thank the chairman. If there are no further questions for this panel, I could excuse this panel, and we could ask Mr. Garamendi to move forward. And as soon as the room calms down, we can begin with his testimony.
Chairman YOUNG. There are still some seats up here, if there's anybody out in the hall. You can act like you're Congress people for a short period of time.
Mr. UNDERWOOD. Can we mark this up and vote now, and include these people?