A measure to provide additional revenue for the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency was signed into law Friday.
Introduced by Senator Mary Camacho Torres, Bill No. 87-36, now Public Law 36-36, would authorize the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA) to take possession and title of property acquired in violation of local customs law—depriving criminals of ill-gotten gains while augmenting the agency’s operations.
The law comes at a time of continued shortfall for Customs. In the last four fiscal years, nearly $4 million has been cut from CQA’s budget—a concerning reduction given the agency’s mandate to protect Guam’s borders and secure ports of entry. As a recent study published by the University of Guam Regional Center for Public Policy (UOG-RCPP) noted, reduced funding has led to a shortage of manpower, hampers efforts to intercept illegal cargo, and compromises community safety.
“In many ways, the Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA) is a first line of defense against illegal activity on our island,” said Governor Leon Guerrero in her signing message. “The asset forfeiture fund created as a result of this legislation will serve as a resource to help satisfy CQA’s operational and training needs.”
To help Customs become self-sustaining, all proceeds from the sale of property forfeited under P.L. 36-36 would be set aside in a local asset fund and channeled directly to the agency—allowing for future hires of personnel, training, enhancement of facilities, purchasing of equipment, and other needs.
Torres’ measure further mandates the promulgation of rules and regulations, which must be approved by the Attorney General of Guam prior to moving forward. These rules would include the procedure for collection of penalties as well as periodic review of the costs for providing storage, destruction, and administrative fees.
“P.L. 36-36 sends a clear warning that we will pursue criminals and deprive them of their profits,” concluded Senator Torres. “It also expands the capabilities of our First Line of Defense—enabling CQA to properly perform their duties and protect this island.”
(Senator Mary Camacho Torres Release)