Monday, December 21, 2009

H2: No cause for concern

H2: No cause for concern

Monday, 21 December 2009 03:52 by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

DEIS: Contract workers not likely to cause a crime spike; migrants may

WITH more job opportunities expected in the wake of the military buildup on Guam, efforts are underway to recruit and train up to 5,000 workers from outlying islands. But at least, from prior experiences suggest that H2B workers would be responsible for little, if any, increase in crimes.

An assessment in the military’s draft impact statement claims a spike in crimes will come from an increase in migrants from the freely associated states.

The military blueprint for the enormous realignment plan further states there is no evidence that the transfer of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa will contribute to the crime spike, despite the indisputable record of rapes, fights and robberies that Okinawa residents have cited as one of the key reasons for insisting the military leave their prefecture.

According to the draft environmental impact statement, it is expected that a spike in the number of offenses and arrests would occur at the onset and for the duration of the construction component, especially considering that the overall social change at this time would be augmented by the relocation of the Marines to Guam.

Law abiding

H2 workers are subject to numerous employer regulations. In general, they appear to follow these rules, save money, and send it home. Any violations under legal jurisdiction could lead to their deportation and the loss of the opportunity to work on Guam.

The expected construction worker composition may also affect increase in crime, with H-2B workers having historically less of an impact than workers migrating from the outlying region.

In contrast, migration of workers from Micronesia, whether for direct construction work or to take new indirect jobs, have been associated with increased crime. Migrants from Chuuk, Palau, Pohnpei, Yap, Kosrae and the Marshall Islands, are disproportionately represented in Guam arrests, according to the most recent data.

Inquiries to the Guam Police Department, along with extensive research, failed to uncover quantitative crime data about Guam’s previous construction boom phases.

However, interviews with industry professionals that experienced Guam’s hotel construction boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s indicate that Guam did not experience significant increases in crime or social disorder.

Boom time crime

While the exact percentage of Guam’s population comprised of FAS residents for these years is not known, the numbers counted by the U.S. Census Bureau (2009) for 2008 suggests a percentage in the range of 11 percent to 15 percent. This compares with 33 percent of all arrestees on Guam for 2005 and 2006.

Notably, 2006 statistics show that arrests of migrants from the FSM were disproportionately high for serious crimes such as aggravated assault (44 percent), motor vehicle theft (43 percent) and murder (33 percent). However, actual numbers of the latter two crimes are low and therefore statistically less reliable (GPD 2008).

Arrests among the FSM community on Guam were disproportionately higher for lesser offenses such as assaults, vandalism, public drunkenness and liquor laws violations, including driving under the influence and disorderly conduct. Chuukese comprise 80 percent of indigent defendants currently in the court system.

Cultural conflicts

The possibility of ethnic bias in arrest patterns must be acknowledged in reference to the above data. Furthermore, cultural differences affect arrest rates as well.

Moreover, recent arrest data on Guam does not indicate an offenders’ type of employment, so it is not possible to say whether construction workers in particular are more crime-prone than other types of workers.

Construction booms, the military impact report states, in general cause a variety of social disruptions. As areas are affected by rapid population growth and social changes, law enforcement, it continues, become more bureaucratic, impersonal, reliant on recordkeeping, stringent, and professional.

Residents, preoccupied with social change and its consequences, may note a large increase in crime as a result of the population growth and regard newcomers to Guam as largely responsible for the crime. The study suggests residents are also more likely to report crimes.

These new migrants not only come from depressed economies, but also often live by different value systems that may manifest in behavior that is acceptable in their culture but not on Guam.

For example, while educational requirements are nominal in FSM, not attending school is defined as truancy on Guam.

Emergent issues

Micronesian gangs are also emerging as a problem, particularly among Chuukese and Chamorro youths engaging in fights and retaliation actions.

But, the draft impact statement emphasizes that migrants from the region coming to Guam may display a current propensity for higher crime rates could reflect cultural transitions to a more modern societal model and such behavior or statistics would not necessarily continue indefinitely.

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