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Pacific News Minute: DOJ: Guam’s Chamorro Land Trust Discriminates on Race

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Last month, we reported on Guam’s dispute with the Justice Department over voter eligibility in a plebiscite restricted to Chamorros. In another similar case, the Justice Department charges that Guam’s Chamorro Land Trust violates anti-discrimination provisions of the Fair Housing Act. We have details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.


Both cases have the same plaintiff, Arnold “Dave” Davis. An Air Force veteran who’s lived on Guam for decades. After his application was rejected by Chamorro Land Trust, he took his case first to the local government, then to the U.S. Justice Department.


“What prompted this,” Davis told the Guam Daily Post, “was a recognition of the fact that more than 60,000 residents of Guam, who are U.S. citizens, are denied rights.” Eventually, DOJ agreed, ruling the land trust discriminates against non-Chamorros.


The law creating the Land Trust Commission dates back to the 1970s, but nothing happened for almost two decades until Chamorro rights activist Angel Santos staged a hunger strike.  Governor Eddie Calvo argues that the commission was created to right a wrong against the people of Guam. He told the Pacific Daily News that many people gave away their land for pennies during and after the Second World War under the impression that it was the right thing to do and that land would be returned.


The Land Trust gives Chamorros  99 year leases to plots of public land for a dollar…of about 11,400 applications fewer than half have been approved. There are questions about why so many have had to wait twenty years, and about why some people jumped to the head on the line.


The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department offered to negotiate a settlement, but Guam Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson has formally declined and it looks like this case, like the Plebiscite case, will be decided in Federal Court.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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