Guam Governor Eddie Calvo has called for the U.S. Department of Defense to halt military construction projects on the island until a shortage of foreign labor is remedied. Federal immigration officials have denied most of the requests by Guam businesses to use temporary foreign labor under the H2B visa program, the Pacific Daily News reported on Friday.
A few years ago, the U.S. territory had a foreign work-force of more than 1,000. After the number dropped below 100, businesses on the island filed a lawsuit over the denials last year. Calvo has asked the Defense Department to stop military construction and for the guidelines of the buildups to be reassessed. The military has relied on the island's temporary foreign workforce in the past.
"Unfortunately, this H2B denial, which started with the bureaucrats of the Obama administration, continues to linger," said Calvo, a Republican. "In so doing, it is not only hindering our island's economy, but I believe it is risking our island and our nation's security as well." In a letter to the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, James W. McCament, Calvo said the visa denials are causing harm by inflating construction costs and leaving fewer bids for military and civilian projects.
"I consider this a clear and present danger to the safety and health of the people of Guam,"Calvo said. Also Friday, the U.S. government filed a lawsuit against Guam and the island's Chamorro Land Trust Commission, saying the territory's government has violated provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit says Guam's Chamorro Land Trust Act, which holds public land for the benefit of the island's indigenous people, has discriminated on the basis of race or national origin, the Pacific Daily News reported.
The territory's law allows the Chamorro people to apply for residential and agricultural leases of that land. The commission also leases some of the land for commercial purposes to non-indigenous people in order to generate revenue.
As an example of the law's discriminating practices, the lawsuit outlined the case of a non-indigenous man married to a Chamorro woman who lost his home on a land-trust plot after his wife died. The lawsuit stated that the commission evicted the man following a hearing on his claim because he was not native to Guam.
The lawsuit asked the federal court to prohibit Guam's practices it claims are discriminatory. The lawsuit also called for monetary damages to be awarded to those harmed by the law.
Calvo said Guam plans to fight the lawsuit. "It's clear that they don't understand or don't care about the reason behind the creation of the Chamorro Land Trust's Commission," Calvo said. "We must allow the native inhabitants of this land the opportunity to build a home and live on their native land and I have no compunction about fighting this out in court." PACNEWS