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Views and Reviews

1 ... STATEHOOD: A Journey toward Guam's Ultimate Destiny

2 ... ON U.S. CITIZENSHIP: A Viewpoint


4 ... STATEHOOD -- In a Nutshell

5 ... ECONOMIC BENEFITS -- At a Glance


1 ... STATEHOOD: A Journey toward Guam's Ultimate Destiny

Statehood will fully integrate Guam, now an unincorporated territory, as a full and equal partner in the Union of the United States of America. It is an ultimate status like the two previous U.S. territories -- Alaska and Hawaii -- attained in 1959.

Achieving statehood, as demonstrated by the experiences of Alaska and Hawaii, involves a long, tedious and often frustrating process. Both Alaska and Hawaii began making statehood overtures in the early 1900s. Both started to crystallize their aspirations to become a state, and both saw a series of legislation introduced in Congress seeking admission fell on deaf ears or squashed in oversight committees.

However, both persevered despite these setbacks. In the early 1940s both reinforced and re-energized their drive by mobilizing the entire populace and intensifying their lobbying in Washington D.C.

There is no specific qualification for statehood under the Constitution. Article IV Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution simply reads in part:

""New States may be admitted by the Congress into the Union ..."

Skeptics, however, say that Guam is too small in land area and population size to qualify. It should be noted that when Alaska was admitted in 1959, it had a population of 209,000 and that included military personnel and their dependents. Eight states, at the time of their admission, had less than 100,000 in population and two with less than 50,000.

The question of population arose with respect to Hawaii and Alaska. When admitted as a state in 1959, Hawaii's population was approximately 534,000 and Alaska 209,000. At present, Guam has about 150,000. Both Hawaii and Alaska experienced dramatic economic growth and population increase after achieving statehood. The same could be true with Guam in this part of the world.

Because of our close proximity to the Pacific and Asia rim countries, Guam can further U.S. economic and defense interests in this part of the world, and serve as forward defense against possible Asian threats, particularly from China and North Korea.

To gain admission, Guam must convince Congress that statehood would be mutually beneficial for Guam and the nation. It must show that it would contribute to the nation's economic and security interests, and enhance national defense because of the island's strategic location relative to the Pacific and Asia rim countries. Alaska provided a northern defense buffer zone against the Soviet Union at the heights of the Cold War era and Hawaii extended the nation's defense perimeter in the Pacific further west.

In addition to the military strategic value, Hawaii also was viewed as a vanguard in extending America's economic and political influence further in the Pacific-Asia rim. That rationale should also hold true with Guam. At the same time, Guam would fulfill its aspiration to achieve equality through full integration with the U.S.

Statehood for Guam may take a decades before it becomes a reality. This will give Guam ample time and opportunity to continue developing its economy and political stature. Its tourist industry is fast catching up with that of Hawaii, and its growth in the last decade has exceeded prior expectations.

Having learned well in the early years of U.S. tutelage, the inhabitants were assimilated into the American mindset -- particularly with being treated with dignity and equality. Since then and to the present, the most common frustration echoed continually by the people was their desire to achieve equality, especially since they were made U.S. citizens in 1950. This deep-rooted aspiration will be fully realized in the attainment of statehood.

Statehood for Guam means:

o Equality with all other states -- enjoying the same powers, rights, entitlements and economic privileges as well as assuming the responsibilities of being a state.

o Voting for the President and Vice President of the United States.

o Voting representatives in Congress -- two Senators and one Re-presentative. (There are seven states -- namely, Alaska, Delaware, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming -- with one seat in the House of Representatives because of their small population size.)

o Permanent U.S. citizenship under the U.S. Constitution. Since our present citizenship was acquired from Congress under the 1950 Organic Act of Guam, some believe that it could be adversely affected should Guam decide to cut loose from the U.S. by opting for independence or free association. Under the circumstances, Congress will be forced to repeal the act.

o National defense umbrella. The U.S. will be responsible for defending Guam from any external/foreign threat to it security and way of life.

o Equal opportunities to partake in federal revenue sharing. Guam will be eligible, like all other states, to receive more federally-funded programs, entitlements, grants and aids. This will mean a windfall in the millions of dollars that could be used to improve the living standard of the people of Guam.

In FY 1998, the Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. reported that 31 of the 50 states received more in "federal outlays for every $1 they paid in federal taxes." For instance, New Mexico got back $1.94 for every dollar it paid, Hawaii $1.51 and Alaska $1.44.

o Leverage in Congress. Guam stands to fare better in promoting Guam's interests because of the influence its two Senators and a House representative wield. This could mean another financial windfall for Guam.

o Increased Prestige when interacting with other nations in the Pacific rim and Asia. Most certainly, this will enhance Guam's ability to attract outside investments, both from the U.S. and Asian countries, and grow its tourist industry and economy in general.

The United States of America is a union of states in full and equal partnership, with clearly delineated powers exercised by the states and the federal government. The sovereignty of the federal government and the sovereignty of the states are clearly defined.

As a state, Guam will:

o Have sovereignty in all local and state matters, except as to those powers granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

o Maintain total autonomy in state/local affairs, except in those areas expressly granted to the federal government or as may be necessary to maintain the acknowledged powers of the federal government.

o Write a state Constitution in consonant with the U.S. Constitution. Congress cannot alter the state constitution or hold veto powers over laws enacted by the state legislature.

o Set up its own government structure (executive, legislative and judicial branches), determine qualifications and terms for public offices, and assign pay ranges. The Legislature may create, modify or abolish state departments and agencies, shorten or lengthen the term of office, increase or lower salary of public employees, or change the mode of compensation.

o Establish its own state court system at all levels, including a state supreme court, under its own Constitution.

Upon admission, Guam:

o Pledges to abide with the U.S. Constitution and provide support to the national government.

o Acquires all the powers of state sovereignty. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution to prevent a state from adopting a system of laws or administration of law for all or any part of its jurisdiction.

o Makes null and void all laws enacted prior to admission which would cause inequality or conflict with the Constitution and applicable federal laws.

o Acquires titles to all properties owned by the territory, unless changed by Congress.

The federal-state relationship is based on a partnership, each supreme in its own jurisdiction. Guam will maintain total control over its affairs, except in those areas expressly granted to the Federal government under the U.S. Constitution.

The powers delegated by the states under the U.S. Constitution constitute the sovereignty of the Federal government. These powers were designed to provide for the common defense and to promote the general welfare.These include functions and activities applicable to all states, but can best be handled at the federal level.

The federal government handles:

o Foreign relations with other sovereign nations, including making treaties.

o National defense with a well-trained and well-equipped military units-- active, reserve and National Guard -- to defend the nation and its national interests elsewhere.

o Federal taxes to support and maintain common defense and general welfare of the nation. These taxes are levied and collected by the IRS.

o Immigration controls the immigration of foreign nationals and the processing of new citizens.

o Air and shipping rights to regulate transportation activities.

o Anti-trust law. The Justice Department maintains compliance.

o Coastal zone management, wildlife and fishery conservation.

o Labor laws on minimum wage, occupational hazard and safety, and the importation of alien workers are enforced throughout U.S.

o Environmental control of air, water, soil and natural resources.

o Federal courts handle all judicial matters relating to the Constitution and cases arising from federal laws.


2 ... ON U.S. CITIZENSHIP: A Viewpoint

The people of Guam became statutory U.S. citizens when Congress enacted the 1950 Organic Act of Guam. Since then, they have exercised limited self-government although they now elect their governor, members of the Legislature, a non-voting delegate to Congress and village mayors.

They also have some protection under the U.S. Constitution and enjoy federal funding, programs, grants, aids and entitlement.

The people of Guam are firmly loyal to the U.S. and cherish their citizenship, despite still living in an unincorporate territory. They have consistently expressed their desire for closer union with the U.S, perhaps ultimately achieving statehood.

Status such as independence or free association will end U.S. sovereignty over Guam. This could adversely impact on their U.S. citizenship and more especially on future generations.

Under the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Congress can enact law to extend certain provisions of the Constitution to unincorporated territory, as it did for Guam under the Organic Act of 1950. However, a future Congress will not be bound by the statute, and can repeal the law, according to a Congressional report. This means that Congress has the power to withdraw U.S. citizenship conferred under the Organic Act of Guam by repealing that act.

That report -- on H.R. 856 which would sanction a political self-determination plebiscite for Puerto Rico in 1998 -- pointed out to that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled "that the 14th Amendment (of the Constitution) does not make citizenship permanent or irrevocable in the case of persons born outside the U.S. whose citizenship is conferred by statute, and that Congress can terminate U.S. non-Constitutional citizenship by the same power through which it is granted...

"Thus, the U.S. Constitution has been judicially interpreted by the high court of last resort to establish that persons born outside the U.S. in a foreign country who acquire statutory U.S. citizenship based on the U.S. citizenship of parents do not have the permanent and Constitutionally-guaranteed citizenship that people acquire upon birth in a State."

The only way to guarantee that the people of Guam made statutory U.S. citizens by the Organic Act of 1950 and their descendants is for Guam to become a State of the Union. By doing so, their citizenship will be permanent and irrevocable under the 14th Amendment and enjoy full protection of their rights under the U.S. Constitution.



(A commentary by Atty. James Brooks, a specialist in Immigration and Naturalization law.)

Today a child born in Guam is a U.S. citizen. That's because of a law passed by Congress. That law, once part of the Organic Act of Guam and now a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, grants citizenship to all persons born on the island on or after April 11, 1899.

The U.S. citizenship of persons born in Guam is different from that of persons born in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia because in the case of the latter their citizenship is derived from and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

That part of the 14th amendment guarantees the citizenship of those persons who are born in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia does not apply to Guam.

The kind of citizenship acquired on Guam is not unique. The same statutory form of citizenship is conferred upon persons born in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Similarly, persons born outside the United States to U.S. citizens gain their citizenship by statute rather than the Constitution. Persons born in the Northern Mariana Islands acquire their U.S. citizenship on the basis of a provision in the Covenant that created the Commonwealth.

But U.S. citizenship, however acquired, gives the holder the same individual constitutional rights as every other U.S. citizen. The most important consequence of this equality is that Congress could not summarily revoke the U.S. citizenship of persons who gained it by virtue of having been born on Guam.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case known as Trop v. Dulles, 356 US 86, held in 1958 that citizenship is a "fundamental right" that "is not subject to the general powers of the national government and therefore cannot be divested in the exercise of those powers." The court said that citizenship "may be voluntarily relinquished or abandoned either by express language or by language and conduct that show a renunciation of citizenship," but that "the deprivation of citizenship is not a weapon that the government may use to express its displeasure at a citizen's conduct, however reprehensible that conduct may be. As long as a person does not voluntarily renounce or abandon his citizenship ... his fundamental right of citizenship is secure."

Thus, regardless of what political status the indigenous population of Guam may choose for the island, the price of that choice cannot be the revocation of existing U.S. citizenship of those who wish to retain it.

But what of the future generations? The answer is entirely different. U.S. citizenship is conferred on people born on Guam because the present law says so. If Congress so chooses, it could repeal the law and if Guam chose Independence, even Independence with Free Association, Congress would have no choice but to repeal the law. After all, U.S. citizenship is granted now because of a child's birth takes place on U.S. soil. Once Guam is independent, even independent in free association with the U.S., the national sovereignty of the U.S. will be gone from the island and the federal government would have no power to grant U.S. citizenship to those persons who are then born on Guam.

Even the U.S. citizenship of those already born could be drawn in question if, part of living on Guam, people chose to swear allegiance to Guam as a sovereign or independent nation. Among the ways one can lose one's U.S. citizenship is the "taking an oath or making affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof," as stipulated in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 349. Obviously to take part in a political life of an independent Guam, a person would have to pledge allegiance to the nation of Guam.

The only guaranteed way to preserve U.S. citizenship for the generations of Guamanians yet to be born is statehood. Once Guam is a state, citizenship will be constitutionally guaranteed to all who are born on the island.



4 ... STATEHOOD FOR GUAM -- In a Nutshell

o FULL INTEGRATION with the U.S. on equal footing with other states.

o STATE SOVEREIGNTY/AUTONOMY. Total control of state affairs.

o FOREIGN RELATIONS- Federal jurisdiction to grant diplomatic recognition and make treaties with sovereign countries.

o FORM OF GOVERNMENT -- A republican form with three co-equal branches: Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.

o CITIZENSHIP -- Permanent U.S. citizenship guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

o CONSTITUTION -- The U.S. Constitution prevails, but the state constituion dictates on all state matters.

o INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS -- Guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution:


  • Freedom of religion, free press, free speech, peaceful assembly, redress of grievance.
  • Right to own and bear arms.
  • Protection from unreasonable search and seizure of private property. Due process of law, protection from double jeopardy and self-incrimination, just compensation for private property taken for public use.
  • Fair and speedy trial,trial by jury when charged with a crime.
  • Jury trial for civil suit.
  • No excessive bail or fines, or cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Rights of state.

o NATIONAL DEFENSE -- U.S. armed services provide common defense from external threat.

o ECONOMIC/FINANCIAL STRUCTURE -- Free enterprise/free market competition, U.S. currency.

o TAX STRUCTURE -- According to federal (Internal Revenue Service) laws and State tax laws.

o LEGAL/JUDICIAL STRUCTURE -- Based on the U.S. Constitution/ State Constitution, federal/state laws, federal/state courts.

o PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS -- Guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

o CIVIL RIGHTS -- Guaranteed under U.S. the Constituttion, and federal/state laws.

o VOTE IN NATIONAL ELECTION -- Vote for the President and Vice President.

o VOTING REPRESENTATION IN CONGRESS -- Two (2) Senators and a House representative.

o INCREASED ACCESS to federal $$$ assistance, revenue sharing, programs, grants, aids and entitlement.

o ECONOMIC/POLITICAL STABILITY -- ensured by federal/state laws, and the U.S. Constitution.




5 ... ECONOMIC BENEFITS: At a Glance

In the coming plebiscite endorsed by the United Nations, the inhabitants of Guam will be asked to choose on their ultimate political determination. The three options -- considered terminal or ultimate status -- include U.S. statehood, free association and independence.

The Guam Legislature enacted a law several years ago to hold the plebiscite which will pave the way for Guam to delink itself from the Non-Self Governing status which was initially defined as not yet excercing its political self-determination. It was to have been  voted upon in  conjunction with the territory's 2002 primary elections in September, but was postponed for one reason or another. It will be up to the Guam Election Commission to reset the date in the future.

Here's a nutshell comparisions between the three options -- Statehood, Free Association and Independence.

As a state, Guam stands to experience a higher level of federal assistance and economic growth spurred by outside investments.

Such was the experience of Alaska and Hawaii when the two became states in 1959. Their level of federal revenue sharing, assistance, grants, aids and entitlement increased. Their economy also grew dramatically.

The financial/economic benefits, as a state, would be generated from various sources:


  • Revenue sharing, full participation in federal programs, assistance, grants, aids and entitlement would mean a windfall for Guam.
  • Social Security Supplemental Income would be extended to Guam. This would be a real boost for elderly Social Security recipients living on a fixed income who are usually first to feel the pinch from inflation.
  • Earned Income Credit (EIC) would be made available to workers on Guam with marginal wages, funded by federal appropriation. With Guam?s wages lower than in the U.S. mainland, a large number of our work force, especially in the private sector, would greatly benefit from EIC.
  • Tax Treaty benefits would be applicable to Guam. The treaty would provide lower federal tax rates on foreign investments on Guam. (Note: The Congress recently enacted a law to include Guam coverage in the tax treaty.)
  • Domestic custom zone and domestic rates for services would be in place. Presently, Guam is sometimes classified as being in the international zone and thus charged the higher international rates.
  • Increased share in Congressional appropriations. Guam votes in Congress should be a leverage to get more federal money to fund local requirements.