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US government sues Guam over indigenous land law

Updated: 
October 2, 2017 - 12:05am

HAGATNA — The U.S. government has filed a lawsuit against Guam and the island’s Chamorro Land Trust Commission saying the territory’s government has violated provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act.

The lawsuit filed on Friday says that Guam’s Chamorro Land Trust Act, which holds public land for the benefit of the island’s indigenous people, has discriminated on the basis of race or national origin, the Pacific Daily News reported.

The U.S. territory’s law allows the Chamorro people to apply for residential and agricultural leases of that land. The commission also leases some of the land for commercial purposes to non-indigenous people in order to generate revenue.

As an example of the law’s discriminating practices, the lawsuit outlined the case of a non-indigenous man married to a Chamorro woman who lost his home on a land-trust plot after his wife died. The lawsuit stated that the commission evicted the man following a hearing on his claim because he was not native to Guam.

The lawsuit asked the federal court to prohibit Guam’s practices it claims are discriminatory. The lawsuit also called for monetary damages to be awarded to those harmed by the law.

Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said they plan to fight the lawsuit.

“It’s clear that they don’t understand or don’t care about the reason behind the creation of the Chamorro Land Trust’s Commission,” Calvo said. “We must allow the native inhabitants of this land the opportunity to build a home and live on their native land - and I have no compunction about fighting this out in court.”

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