Guam Lt. Governor Warns Against Abusing Compact Benefits

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Tenorio also questions tax refunds for some regional migrants

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 16, 2014) – Regional migrants who commit crimes aren't the only ones who are unwelcome on Guam, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio said yesterday.

He said people who are "gaming the system," including migrants who put in token work -- just enough to be able to file income tax returns and then claim thousands of dollars in tax refunds -- also need to be discussed.

"There are many people in this community who contribute to the quality of life here, but there are others who do not and commit crimes," the lieutenant governor said.

"And we are simply saying that if someone here on this island is taking advantage of the generosity of the people of Guam and the hospitality of our island, but then are ultimately violating our laws, they need to be deported."

Federal treaties with nations in Micronesia allow residents of those nations to move to Guam and elsewhere in the United States, provided they are working or going to school.

"Gaming the system basically goes to... it's one thing to come here and to add to the quality of life and to work, or to contribute to the community by educating yourself and becoming a well-skilled individual to go into the workplace," Tenorio said. "It's another thing to come here and simply take advantage of the generosity of our taxpayers to try to gain an advantage, which they really shouldn't be here for in the first place."

Tenorio's comments followed Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz's statement pushing for the deportation of regional migrants who are convicted of crimes here.

Cruz's recent meeting with federal immigration officials also sparked a discussion about a federal rule that says regional migrants can be subject to "removal" if they fail to be self-supporting 60 days after their arrival.

GovGuam has had to maintain a delicate balance between acknowledging the economic, cultural and social contributions of regional migrants and pointing out that public services are costing the local government money.

In fiscal 2012, Guam spent $125 million in public services to regional immigrants who move here under the Compact of Free Association agreements between the United States and the immigrants' island nations, Pacific Daily News files show.

Tenorio acknowledged there's frustration in the local community about recent crimes.

"Our community deserves to call into question what's happening... I would encourage them to dig deeper... Why do we have the level of concern that we have, and how much crime that we have? We have an influx of population of people from other places that are committing a disproportionate number of the crimes. You can look at the number of people at (the Department of Corrections) and (Department of Youth Affairs) and you can vet that out," Tenorio said.

Recent incidents include rape cases involving regional immigrant youth as suspects and a local man who was arrested in the alleged beating death of his girlfriend's 23-month-old daughter.

Some of Tenorio's comments yesterday didn't sit well with a native of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Casanova Nakamura, a court-registered interpreter who has lived on Guam since 1989.

Based on his experience with the local court cases he's seen, Nakamura said most of the violent crimes on Guam aren't committed by citizens from the freely associated states.

There are crimes that do involve people from the FAS, and Nakamura said that makes him feel bad.

He did say that some of the crimes that paint the suspects as FSM migrants, do involve people who were born on Guam, but are of FAS heritage.

He said comments by the lieutenant governor make him feel bad.

Tenorio said he called the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation yesterday to try to get some numbers on the impact of tax refund claims from regional immigrants who are not contributing fully to the local community and economy.

Some of the tax refund payments aren't reimbursed by the federal government, the local Rev and Tax department has stated.

"I called Rev and Tax ... (to) find out if there's any statistics on that, but I can tell you, when I was senator years ago, that a couple of them walked into my office, and they're FSM citizens, and they showed me their tax refunds, and I said, wow that's nice; how much is it? One was $8,000; the other one was $9,000, and I've never had a tax refund in that amount -- I don't think -- in my recent recollection," Tenorio said.

"And that's a lot of money. And we're not talking about like ... a professor from UOG getting a tax refund; these are lay citizens from the FSM who are walking away with big dollars, and that's just one year. How many years have we been with the Compact? And these are the people of Guam paying it, not the (federal government)," Tenorio said.

In 2011, discussions on crime and regional immigrants also were touched off by a triple murder involving Chuukese men as suspects, although the men had lived on Guam all their lives.

According to a three-year average compiled through the Guam Police Department Unified Crime Reports, Federated States of Micronesia and other freely associated states' citizens make up 15 percent of the island's population, but are involved in 40 percent of DUI arrests; 63 percent of all drunkenness arrests; 64 percent of all liquor-law violations; 43 percent of all aggravated assault arrests and 30 percent of all assault arrests, according to Pacific Daily News files from 2011.

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