My name is Clynt Ridgell. I’m half white and half Chuukese. My mom is from the island of Ta in the Mortlock region of Chuuk state. I was born and raised on Guam my wife is Chamorro and we have two children. I’m 40 years old and I’m running for senator on Guam for the Democratic Party of Guam. I want to be a bridge between the FAS community and the rest of the Guam community. I believe by working together we can solve the issues, problems and challenges that Guam faces to make Guam better for all.
That being said, during a forum for first time senatorial candidates held by the Guam Association of Accountants a Republican Senator used his time to discuss his proposal to demand a moratorium on immigration from the FAS. Typically during these types of forums candidates will introduce themselves and give a little bit of background about themselves as well as talk about some of the things they want to accomplish if elected. Instead candidate Harold Cruz used his time to use divisive rhetoric that only serves to incite hatred and pit one group versus the other. I felt the way he framed the discussion only served to lay blame for all of GovGuams financial problems on FAS immigrants. I felt it was scapegoating and an unproductive speech that did nothing to propose actual solutions. I believe he was pandering to the fears and anger that some people harbor inside that have been perpetuated by negative stereotypes.
I was compelled to say something in rebuttal. I could not sit idly by while my people are blamed for everything under the sun. So I pointed out that his facts where inaccurate. He touted a supposed billion dollar figure that is owed to Guam by the federal government for compact impacts. The federal government has said Guam’s formula for determining this amount is flawed for various reasons including the fact that GovGuam does not take into account the amount of contributions that compact immigrants make to the island and the local economy. Contributions via taxes, jobs COFA immigrants fill and money spent by COFA immigrants in the local economy. Every item purchased contributes to the local tax base via the Gross Receipts Tax.
In addition the idea that COFA or FAS people are the cause of GovGuam’s financial problems is false. I was born and raised on Guam and I remember as a child my father who worked for GovGuam would complain about the constant threat of Payless paydays. This was well before there was a major influx of COFA immigrants. GMH and DOE also struggled well before there were very many FAS people on Guam.
My issue was the way in which he framed the conversation that made it seem as if all the problems of the island can be traced to FAS people. I did however acknowledge that there are challenges that FAS immigrants face, but these are challenges that every immigrant population has faced throughout history in every part of the world. Instead of laying blame solely at the feet of one group of people I proposed a solution. A council of elders comprised of leaders from all of the FAS nations that would work to solve problems within the FAS community. This council could address issues of assimilation, education, poverty, crime, etc.
Below is a link to a video of the entire forum. Harold Cruz begins talking at 12:30 and I begin at 36:00. Thank you.
Video Link: The Association of Government Accountants.