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  • Pacific Island Times Staff

Calvo H-2B visa 'crisis' complaint and threat to military buildup may be getting through to

Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo isn't planning to do the work himself, but he's been complaining for quite a while that the Washington-imposed nearly 100 percent denial of applications for H2B visa worker applications threatens the future of the Guam military buildup. Now, the stateside Bloomberg Government website has picked up on the issue.

On Sep. 20, Pacific Island Times reported:

"Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., said it’s just starting to dawn on lawmakers and high ranking officials of the Trump administration that blanket denials of skilled foreign workers to carry out military construction projects on Guam is already a huge threat to national security.

Echoing the president’s take on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Governor Calvo said, 'It took a crazy guy with a funky haircut to get people in Washington, D.C. to start listening to issues that are affecting the people of Guam.'

Speaking to the Guam Contractor’s Association, Calvo said the 100 percent denial to allow foreign laborers to carry out projects is an 'H2B worker crisis created by the federal government,' that also threatens to destroy a promising boom for military and civilian construction on the island lasting up to 2030 or longer. This policy change began in December, 2015 and is a rejection of longtime policy that has closely followed certifications by island governors.

'If they don’t change [H2B rules] as of yesterday, this buildup is not going to happen with the workers we have now, period. There is no way you can do $8.7 billion in construction. Just in the short time I’ve been gone, and I think it was North Korea that shook everything up, we’re getting an award a week, sometimes more.'"

Bloomberg Government reporter Roxana Tiron has picked up on this story:

"The Pentagon’s military buildup in the Pacific is running into a potential hitch: Guam’s governor is threatening to stop plans to relocate thousands of Marines unless the U.S. territory is permitted to bring in foreigners to work on non-military projects, too.

The dispute will reach a pivotal point in coming days as congressional negotiators decide whether to authorize only enough seasonal worker visas for the military’s projects, or also thousands of additional visas so that construction workers can be brought in to upgrade a hospital and build housing.

'The H-2B visa crisis has strained Guam’s workforce and undermined our construction and health industries,' Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo said in a statement. 'This has serious implications for both our civilian and military communities, and it is imperative that Congress provide relief.'

The Pentagon is caught in the middle, arguing that the problem needs to be solved swiftly to protect national security interests.

Guam has been “collaborating with the military for many years,” said Lucian Niemeyer, assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations, and environment. Islanders 'felt that they had a good relationship, with support not just from the military but from the U.S. government',” the Bloomberg Government report said.


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