Talks, meetings center on expanding H-2B labor for Guam civilian projects, getting war claims paid
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero says her first week in Washington as the island's chief executive said that Trump administration officials appear open to changing the Department of Homeland Security's policy of blocking approval of bringing in skilled contract workers for projects other than those connected with the military buildup.
“We have to look at the military buildup from a ‘One Guam’ approach and remind our federal counterparts that in an island 30 miles long and 8 miles wide, there really is no ‘inside’ and‘outside’ the fence because our military families are also a part of our community, traveling on the same roads, shopping at the same malls and eating at the same restaurants,” Gov. Leon Guerrero is quoted as saying in a press release.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and Gov. Leon Guerrero meet to discuss Guam's H-2B labor challenges
The governor received assurances from DHS that the agency would be open to clarifying language in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to include civilian construction projects on Guam. Currently, the NDAA limits H-2B labor to military projects “inside the fence.”
Coming at the contract worker issue from another angle, Gov. Leon Guerrero testified during a House Natural Resources hearing on a pair of bills introduced by CNMI Delegate Gregorio “Kilili” Sablan that would grant permanent resident status to legacy transitional workers. She lent her support to the measures but also asked the committee to sponsor efforts that would address the labor shortage on Guam, particularly through the removal of the Philippines from the H-2B labor ban and by lifting the current NDAA limitations.
The governor also met with senior House leadership in separate meetings that included Rep.Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Rep Ed Case (D-HI), who sits on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; and Rep. Steny Hoyer, House Majority Leader. In all three meetings, the lawmakers conveyed support for H-2B labor in Guam.
In a meeting with Department of the Treasury officials, Leon Guerrero received assurances that DOT and the Department of the Interior would continue to work on an administrative resolution to the delay in paying out Guam war claims. Treasury also says it's working on getting Guam off the recent European Commission tax haven blacklist.