DOJ: Settlement reached in racial discrimination lawsuit against CLTC; Legislature must act to change the law

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Settlement Agreement

In Washington D.C. on Thursday the U.S. Department of Justice formally announced that a final settlement had been reached with the Government of Guam and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission  over claims that Guam’s Chamorro Land Trust Act (CLTA) discriminated against non-Chamorros on the basis of race and national origin in the allocation of Government of Guam land.

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against GovGuam in 2017 alleging that the CLTC violated the Fair Housing Act through its program of granting 99-year residential leases for one-acre tracts, at a cost of one dollar per year, solely to “native Chamorros.”

The terms of the settlement agreement were actually announced late last year. In December 2019 the CLTC submitted a resolution to the Guam Legislature seeking their approval for the changes to Chamorro Land Trust Act required under the settlement agreement. Guam lawmakers have not yet acted on the changes that are need.

The CLTC is part of the Government of Guam and controls approximately 15 percent of Guam’s total land area.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Guam has agreed to stop taking race and national origin into account in awarding the land leases.

“The Department of Justice is committed to fighting race and national origin discrimination through vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division.

“This settlement will ensure that Guam does not discriminate on the basis of race or national origin against non-Chamorros in the administration of its land lease program.”

The Chamorro Land Trust Act will be amended to award leases based on whether individuals lost land or use of land, including during World War II and its aftermath, instead of whether an applicant is a “native Chamorro.”

The CLTC will also be required to collect information to verify eligibility based on the new, race-neutral criteria.

Finally, the agreement prohibits future housing-related discrimination, mandates training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act, and requires record keeping and reporting so that the Justice Department can ensure compliance with the settlement agreement.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

READ the statement from the Governor’s Office on the DOJ settlement announcement in FULL below:

Statement on Motion to Dismiss CLTC Lawsuit  

Hagåtña, Guam – The following is in response to the US Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) motion to dismiss filed earlier today with the federal courts regarding the Chamorro Land Trust Commission (CLTC). 

“Earlier today the US Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss its federal court action against the Chamorro Land Trust Commission. This is a result of months long settlement discussions between USDOJ, the CLTC, the Attorney General, and the Office of the Governor. With minor modifications to Guam’s CLTC law, thousands of present recipients can maintain use of their leases for the betterment of themselves and their families. We are thankful for this outcome and proud that we were able to save this program for our people. This is a good day for Guam.”

The needed changes to existing law have been previously communicated to the Chairwoman on the Committee on Health, Tourism, Historic Preservation, Land and Justice.