Social & Domestic Issues

Federal Lawsuit Challenges Race-Exclusive Vote in Guam

Together with election law attorney Christian Adams, author of Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department (Regnery), the Center for Individual Rights today filed suit against the Government of Guam challenging its plan to hold a race-exclusive plebiscite on the question of whether Guam should seek independence from the United States.
 
Incredibly, Guam law permits only one race only to vote in the plebiscite, specifically the “Chamorro,” a racial designation referring to the original inhabitants of Guam and their descendants.  This group comprises about 36% of the population of Guam.  It pointedly excludes most caucasian, black, Korean, Chinese and Filipino citizens of the United States living on Guam and otherwise registered to vote in Guam elections.
 
Having been a territory of the United States since 1898, Guam apparently has decided to hold a referendum on its future relation with the United States without allowing two-thirds of its lawfully registered voters—all of them also citizens of the United States—to vote.  Imagine the outcry if a Southern state decided to hold a similar plebiscite but only allowed descendants of its (white) settlers to participate.
 
Guam, a territory of the United States, is subject to the U.S. Constitution and numerous federal laws that prohibit it from treating individuals differently on the basis of race.  Unless and until it secedes from the United States, Guam and its officials are bound to observe the Constitution and laws that prohibit treating citizens differently on account of race.
 
More troubling than the existence of this overtly discriminatory law is the failure of Justice Department officials to take action against it.  Despite its clear authority to enforce federal laws prohibiting race discrimination in voting, the Justice Department declined to intervene when presented with a complaint by Guam resident Arnold Davis, the plaintiff in the suit filed this week.  Davis, a retired officer in the U.S. Air Force, was told he couldn’t register because he was not descended from a native inhabitant.
 
The Guam plebiscite bears a strong similarity to Hawaiian laws that formerly limited certain elections to native Hawaiians.  The Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional in Rice v. Cayetano in 1996.  Presumably to get around this problem, Guam claims its plebiscite is not limited by race at all, but only to ”native inhabitants.”

Of course, this is nothing but a pretext—the law defining “native inhabitant” excludes everyone but “Chamorro.”  And even if  “native inhabitant” didn’t conveniently exclude every other racial group, it would still violate the Constitution.  Voting is a fundamental right that cannot be conditioned on the accident of one’s biological descent.  It must be available to all on the same terms, subject only to reasonable conditions such as residency.
 
The plebiscite is part of a political campaign being waged by a group of Chamorro intent on preserving and extending their power over island affairs.  Their tactic is the odious one of building a racial identity for a favored “pure” group in opposition to other “lesser” groups.  Understanding the irrational and inherently undemocratic nature of this kind of racial appeal, the United States Constitution does not permit legal classifications built on race.
 
The United States has a great deal at stake in Guam, a territory which it has defended repeatedly since Spain ceded control at the end of the Spanish-American War.  Most recently, American soldiers fought to liberate it from the Japanese, who had subjected the island to a brutal 31-month occupation.  Guam is now the site of a major Air Force base and has become a primary forward base in the Pacific.
 
Guam’s status as a U.S. territory governed by the Constitution and laws of the United States has enabled the island to attract people from many other countries, notably Korea and the Philippines, who now call Guam their home.  In addition, U.S. citizens, including retired members of the U.S. military, have become permanent residents of the island. Yet now, two-thirds of the island’s residents face disenfranchisement at the hands of the controlling racial group.
 
Though it would be theoretically possible for Guam to secede from the United States in order to pursue its campaign of racial identity, it is not acceptable to claim the authority and protection of the United States Constitution and its laws all the while flouting their fundamental principles.  And no principle is more fundamental to American democracy than the idea that all citizens have the right to vote regardless of race.

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