Trump Administration sues Chamorro Land Trust Commission

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The Department of Justice is alleging the CLTC is discriminating against non-Chamorros.

Guam – The federal government is suing the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, accusing the agency of discriminating against non-Chamorros because their land program only allows for native inhabitants to receive land from GovGuam.

The U.S. Government is calling GovGuam and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission’s actions “intentional, willful and taken in disregard for the rights of others.”

Specifically, they are referring to the Chamorro Land Trust Act which was created to administer the return of unused and unreserved land back to Chamorros.

GovGuam has in its inventory about 20,000 acres of land which makes up about 15 percent of the island’s total land mass. Eligible applicants are granted 99-year residential leases for one-acre tracts at a cost of just $1 a year.

The CLTC’s core mission is to “advance the social, cultural and economic development and well-being of the Chamorro people by way of residential, agricultural and commercial land distribution and economic assistance programs.”

But the U.S. Government says this is a form of discrimination. In their lawsuit, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section attorneys argue that because Guam is a U.S. territory established through the Organic Act of Guam, it must adhere to U.S. Fair Housing Act regulations. Part of that includes “no discrimination shall be made in Guam against any person on account of race.”

The lawsuit points to a similar program in Hawaii called the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act which also reserves a portion of its land for native Hawaiians. The U.S. government says that while Guam has analogized the CLTC to Hawaii’s HHCA, there is a fundamental difference:

“The HHCA was enacted by Congress pursuant to its Indian affairs powers to provide benefits to a Native community,” the lawsuit states.

“By contrast, the CLTA was neither enacted by Congress nor implemented pursuant to authority established by Congress,” court papers add.

And because the Chamorro people have not been recognized by Congress as a tribe or nation nor adopted, enacted or ratified the CLTA, according to the U.S. government, the local government should be enjoined from further refusing to rent or lease land to non-Chamorros.

But it appears that at least one point in time, the Chamorro people did appeal to Congress to give them more autonomy in deciding what to do with their public lands.

The lawsuit cites a time in history before the Organic Act was established when “representatives from Guam urged Congress to permit future local laws designed to ‘protect the lands and business enterprises of persons of Guamanian ancestry,’ but Congress rebuffed the idea.”

We spoke with Department of Land Management Director Mike Borja who said he could not comment on the lawsuit as he was not aware that a lawsuit had been filed against the CLTC.