Feds challenge Guam's defense of land trust act
Hagåtña, GUAM — The U.S. Department of Justice has filed its reply to the government of Guam’s defense of the Chamorro Land Trust Act citing a landmark 26-year-old case that upheld the validity of the act and orders its implementation.
"(In that case), the government of Guam admitted that the Chamorro Land Trust Act discriminates on the basis of race and national origin," the Justice Department argued.
DOJ sued GovGuam in September 2017 contending that the CLTA provides preferential housing benefits only to those it defines as "Native Chamorros" and therefore it "discriminates on the basis of race and national origin" in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Guam Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Orcutt filed an opposition to that argument on Oct. 2, writing, "The CLTA has nothing to do with perpetuating racial discrimination in housing and has everything to do about rectifying the inequities of the post-war land-taking by the United States military."
However, in his response, acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Gore maintained, "The government of Guam argued precisely the opposite in Santos v. Ada, claiming that the CLTA did not restore land to those who lost it."
That case was filed in 1992 by the late Angel Santos and The Chamorro Nation against then-Gov. Joseph Ada. The Superior Court of Guam issued a decision upholding the validity of the CLTA and ordered its implementation at that time.
Now, the DOJ Civil Rights Division maintains the CLTA is racially discriminatory.
"None of (GovGuam’s) new theories can explain how a program that Guam admitted was unlawful racial discrimination in 1992 is race-neutral and nondiscriminatory in 2018," Gore wrote in his response to GovGuam.
Gore also noted that Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood of the District Court of Guam already has recognized in the lawsuit filed by retired Air Force officer Arnold Davis that the "CLTA plainly creates a racial classification benefiting ethnic Chamorro and excluding others."