Guam's lack-of-voice woes echoed by Puerto Rico - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam's lack-of-voice woes echoed by Puerto Rico

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It may have been a hearing to examine the procedures regarding Puerto Rico's political status and economic outlook, but it also shed light on the ongoing fight for equality faced by all US territories. What's happening in Puerto Rico could serve as a case study of what's happening in other US territories, like locally on Guam. "Guam is in the same boat," said Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo. "We just don't have 300 million or 400 million people. We're very small."

A Subcommittee on Insular Affairs held a hearing today to discuss the relationship between the current economic crisis gripping Puerto Rico and the unresolved issue of political status. According Puerto Rico Congressman Pedro Pierluisi the US territory has more US citizens than 21 states and is $73 billion in debt, which they blame on their territorial status.

And like Guam, Puerto Rico voiced a similar concern about their voice on Capitol Hill.  "My constituents cannot vote for president, have no senators, and a non-voting delegate in the House," he stated.

Among the representatives from the US territories, no one knows that better than Delegate Bordallo, who her congressional colleagues from the territories call "The Dean".  She said, "I want to go on record saying this that the life of a territorial delegate in the United States Congress is the most frustrating job that you would have ever expected it to be. When your colleagues are going over there to vote you're standing there watching them, and they say why don't you go over there to vote and I say, 'Well, we don't vote, oh, that's right.' So ladies and gentlemen, I sympathize with everything that's said here."

Likewise American Samoa congresswoman Aumua Amata spoke in solidarity and frustration with how the territories are being treated. Just recently a Federal Court of Appeals rejected arguments attorneys made in a case claiming the national citizenship clause in the US Constitution applies in American Samoa and all other unincorporated US territories. "So once again the courts have confirmed that US nationals in American Samoa and US citizens from Puerto Rico and the other three unincorporated territories are forced to relocate to a state of the union to secure full and equal rights and duties of US citizenship," Amata said.

The court ruling was yet another example of the barriers unincorporated territories face in their path toward equality.  Former governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuno stated, "What it means is that it grants Congress carte blanche to do essentially whatever it wants with the u-s citizens residing in the territories."

Subcommittee chairman Don Young from Alaska pledged his support to push the resolution of Puerto Rico's political status forward, saying, "The status quo cannot exist the fairness to Americans - the unfairness to Americans not being listened to by this Congress and I think the responsibility to the people of Puerto Rico."

Hopefully the same can be extended here where America's day begins. "Like our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, the people of Guam aspire to determine our political future, and fully exercise our right to self-determination," said Bordallo.
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