Senatorial candidates discuss social issues

UNIVERSITY: The welcome sign at the entrance to the University of Guam is shown in this file photo. UOG's Division of Social Work organized a forum with senatorial candidates. Post file photo

Election 2018

A candidates forum organized by the University of Guam Division of Social Work focused on social policy and human services issues that affect Guam's community.

The forum on Thursday featured Amanda Shelton, Clynt Ridgell, Jenei Aguon, Jermaine Alerta, Kelly Marsh, Lasia Casil, Sabina Perez and acting Speaker Therese Terlaje. Each of the eight candidates gave their position on eight topics ranging from the protection of natural resources in Tumon and Ritidian to the deportation of convicted regional migrants.

Below are some of the brief responses:

Question: What is your position on Bill 291, the legislation that proposes the ability to change the sex designation on a birth certificate?

Alerta: People should be able to live their life as they choose. Especially on Guam – it is part of our culture. Part of our culture is acceptance. Part of our culture is understanding. Part of our culture is embracing people.

Ridgell: I think it covers both ends. You are allowed to express your identity as you wish on your birth certificate, but will still retain the vital statistics that are necessary for any government to retain.

Casil: These are anti-discrimination bills. They give a minority group of people that are disenfranchised, that are oppressed, that are murdered on a daily basis, the power to go out there and get jobs, live normal lives (and receive) health care, housing and education.

Perez: I think that it is very important that all the documents are uniformly changed upon the determination of sex change, so we don't have to continuously go through the process of having to get it changed. So, yes I am in support of this bill.

Marsh: I definitely support a bill like this. Parts of the bill that was brought up – yes, it is not self-identification. But I do like the idea of having some sort of therapist or psychologist be part of the process, because I think that that could potentially give support as well as help that person feel that they are making a sound choice.

Terlaje: It would allow identification documents to be obtained by people who currently cannot obtain those identification documents. As you know, those documents are critical to employment. They are critical to your health and to your safety.

Shelton: This bill is all about removing barriers. For a person who is going through a change-of-sex designation, it could be a very important process. Having barriers that impede the process and make the process more difficult is something that is really concerning.

Aguon: I have a lot of family and friends who identify as transgender. Everything that everyone said here is true, but it all boils down to acceptance and letting them have their dignity.

Question: What is your position on the deportation of non-U.S. citizens convicted of violating a Guam law or laws?

Terlaje: I have a problem with this current deportation policy, because it seems to be based on race or even random criteria. We have to come up with our own policy and not allow the federal policy to be imposed on us. Because of its potential race basis, it looks like they might succeed in dividing us from our regional partners. I think we need to look up to our region to come up with solutions to these types of things.

Shelton: Everyone in our community deserves to be safe and we should do our best to ensure that, regardless of our citizenship. I think every case needs to be looked at individually.

Aguon: My answer is not a popular answer. My answer is I do support deportation. However, it is not just black and white. In the (Compact of Free Association), there is an agreement there that says migrants – they come to our island for better education and for better way of life. If they are not abiding by those rules, I think we need to be able to examine that and work with the federal government to have some type of policy or standards to be able to address these issues.

Alerta: They are not U.S. citizens. They are essentially ... visitors to our island. I believe that if they break laws – especially if it involves the commission of a violent crime – I think they should be deported. Like everyone said, but it goes deeper than that. We need to make sure that the people who come to our island who aren't familiar with our norms, traditions, customs and the laws here – that they are properly educated about it.

Ridgell: My mom is a COFA immigrant. She is from the island of Chuuk. I was born and raised here. But I do agree with deportation on a case-by-case basis. That is because it is in the actual compact agreements that call for deportation for certain crimes. But case-by-case basis because first, as the (acting) speaker was saying, as long as it is not racially based, as long as it is not being used by the government to scapegoat our people and point the finger at us.

Casil: My grandfathers were both from the Philippines. My great-grandfather immigrated here from Germany in 1920. This is a tough question. But I think on a case-by-case basis, as Clynt said, we need to look at this. But our resources are overburdened.

Perez: If we do have a deportation process, we need to make sure that the sentences are equal and that they serve their sentences. We also need to look at a proactive way of solving the issues and working with our neighbors to develop a progressive approach to addressing crime.

Marsh: This is not an easy question. But we do need to look at it in a case-by-case basis. We need to balance out the idea of justice – is justice being served? Is the community being harmed? Is somebody's sentence being commuted? Who is paying the price for that?