The town hall meeting in Dededo Wednesday night again brought into focus what seems to be an escalating problem with people who commit crimes against their neighbors and target random residents and tourists, particularly when they are drunk or under the influence of drugs.
The public safety meeting in Dededo was the third of its kind in recent weeks, following the machete attacks in Mangilao against motorists.
Similar to previous public safety community meetings, many concerns from Dededo residents were blamed on immigrants from the Federated States of Micronesia. FSM Consul General Teresa M. Filepin braved the crowd at the Wednesday meeting, as she has done in previous meetings. She acknowledged that "people are frustrated because they don't see action being taken by the FSM leader or government towards its citizens on Guam."
She also pointed out that not all FSM citizens are lawbreakers. "Do not generalize one person's actions toward a group of people because it hurts them a lot," she said. "This may not be the opportune time or good setting to say this, but I do want to share the attitude the FSM citizens are facing on Guam is really having a bad, bad impact on those law-abiding FSM citizens coming to Guam trying to make a good life for themselves."
It is hurtful to blame crimes based on where people have migrated from. Guam does have many hardworking, law-abiding citizens from the FSM. The majority of FSM citizens living on Guam have been taking on jobs and responsibilities that not a lot of people want because these are jobs that require a lot of hours, a lot of hard work and many of the jobs don't pay much.
Another meeting attendee, Dededo resident James Garrido, frankly said, "It's not just the FSM. Even our CHamoru people are committing crime."
We want to thank Guam residents like Garrido who refuse to take the easy route of assigning blame only on the FSM migrants for the myriad of public safety problems in our community.
To Consul Filepin, we believe that most members Guam's community don't want to generalize, nor do they believe that all FSM citizens are lawbreakers. No one in his or her right mind actually believes that.
Having said that, Filepin and the FSM national government do need to realize that the agreement between the United States and the FSM, which allows citizens of the island nation to enter the United States — with the preferred destination being Guam for many — also have to be responsible participants of that deal. Guam may not have had a hand in that international agreement, but Guam has been gravely impacted by it. What Guam does expect from the FSM community is to take care of its citizens on Guam when they're in dire need of assistance.
When FSM citizens become homeless, are not gainfully employed, or are not in school, then the consulate and its national government should set up a mechanism to either establish a safety net, including temporary housing, a soup kitchen, transportation for job interviews and skills training, or offer plane tickets for those who want to return. The FSM government shouldn't wait until a situation becomes a major public embarrassment. Take for example, the case of the FSM citizen who was living at a Yigo school bus stop. It was months before officials stepped in to help the man return home where he has a home and family capable of supporting him.
Some countries that supply labor to other parts of the world, such as the Philippines, have well-established repatriation programs in the event their citizens become displaced in a foreign land. The FSM needs to copy that model to look after its citizens. First, because it's the right thing to do to help look after the welfare of FSM citizens. And second, it must do it as a responsible member of the global community of nations.
The FSM government also can tell the heads of household on Guam who are migrants from the FSM that they have a responsibility to teach youth and other family members to know and obey the laws on Guam, to strive to do well in school, and to be upstanding members of our community.
The callout for more FSM government actions aside, easing public safety issues and the concerns that follow them require the return of core values of family as well as stepping up efforts to stem Guam's drug crisis.
To be clear, not all of the troubles that have been caused by youth or young adults in our community can be blamed on the lack of law enforcement presence.
Families should know where their children are and what they're up to. Families have a responsibility to teach the younger people in the family it's not OK to take something they don't own, it's illegal to assault someone under any circumstance, one can't just take fruits from someone's backyard without asking for permission, and it's against the law to vandalize property, and no one should trespass or break into someone's house, car or building just because no one's looking.
And thank you again to Mr. Garrido for reminding us that these are not FSM- specific problems, and the focus shouldn't be based primarily on ethnic groups.
The problem-solving lies on putting pressure on families to take ownership of their loved ones' actions and to draw a clear line between what's right and wrong.