What would statehood mean for Guam?

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Guam – The One Guam gubernatorial debate on decolonization is tomorrow and leading up to the debate PNC has been featuring the different political status options. Today we sat down with Former Senator Eddie Duenas to talk about statehood.

Independence, Free Association and Statehood are the three political status options should Guam ever hold a plebiscite or vote on political status. Former Senator Eddie Duenas is the Chairman of the statehood task force of the commission on decolonization and he says statehood would provide Guam with a form of Independence in the sense that it will have state’s rights and state sovereignty.

“When Guam becomes a state, it will acquire state sovereignty meaning for example local autonomy meaning full local autonomy as far as state matters are concerned. The only thing that will be applicable to them will of course be the U.S. constitution and some federal laws applicable to Guam,” said Duenas.

As a state Duenas says Guam will be able write a state constitution and will be able to structure its state government the way it wants to. As a state the U.S. constitution will fully apply to Guam residents.

“One thing it will permanize our U.S. citizenship. As you know right now our U.S. citizenship on Guam is conferred by virtue of the Organic Act of Guam which is by legislation by an act of congress,” said Duenas.

This act of congress can be repealed which has brought into question whether or not the U.S. citizenship of people born on Guam will be repealed as well.

So what else would statehood afford?

“We will be allowed to vote for the president and vice-president and we will have full voting in congress. Meaning two senators and at least one representative. And then we will be participating in all programs on equal footing meaning for example that Guam will be treated exactly the same as they would treat California and New York when it comes to federal programs and things like that,” said Duenas.

Many have said that a downside of being a state is that Guam’s income taxes which currently stay in local coffers will have to now go to the national treasury to be divvied up amongst the states via the annual budget process. However, Duenas believes Guam will get more money out of this process.

“We’ll be able to participate in the revenue sharing which means for example we’ll be treated equally and equitably when it comes to federal funds and support coming to Guam,” said Duenas.

“So, we stand to gain a whole lot more. In addition to that too you know the EITC, that’s a big bugaboo on us now. It’s costing us $65 million dollars upwards every year and we have to participate right. But you see as a state the federal government will foot the bill for that,” said Duenas.

But would the federal government ever let Guam become a state? Puerto Rico has tried to become a state but was denied because of its small population but it has far more people than Guam does.

“There’s nothing in the U.S. constitution which says before they admit you to become a state that they have to have so many population or so much land area,” said Duenas.

Duenas says Guam needs to demonstrate a strong desire to become a state and then it needs to lobby members of congress. With Guam’s strategic importance in the region Duenas thinks Guam can use this with its lobbying efforts for statehood.

“Requesting is not enough you have to lobby for it. And many of the states did this thing you know. They used what they call the Tennessee plan meaning for example even if they are not a state they elect two senators and one representative and send them to Washington as their glorified lobbyist. And you know Clynt, we did something similar to that before we gained our non-voting representative,” said Duenas.

Duenas says Guam elected and sent the late congressman Antonio B. Won Pat to the states before they officially recognized Guam’s non-voting delegate to congress. He says we could do the same thing by electing two senators and a representative and then sending them to congress to lobby for statehood.

“Guam is too much of an American now. I don’t think that we can reverse the course of our allegiance and even in our heart and the way of life. Everything seems to be American. And it’s a good thing,” said Duenas.

We will carry live coverage of the UOG One Guam gubernatorial debate on decolonization Tuesday night on Fox6 at 7pm