Governor no longer favors military buildup on Guam, wants feds to address foreign worker visas
HAGATNA, Guam — Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo has announced his administration no longer supports the U.S. military buildup on the island because of the federal government's high rate of denials for temporary foreign worker visa applications.
Calvo said Thursday the government's decision to deny nearly all H-2B visas has resulted in a worker shortage and a potential economic downturn for the island, The Pacific Daily News reported. He cited recent construction projects that never received bids due to a lack of workers as well as the rising costs of homebuilding.
"The biggest obstacle to prosperity on Guam has not been any local politician, but the federal government," Calvo said. "We cannot afford to wait any longer."
He accused the government of not keeping up "with its part of the bargain" and said there has been a breach in an agreement to "ensure Guam is not negatively impacted by the shift in military forces."
Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo acknowledged Calvo's concerns but said Guam could benefit from the military buildup, which would involve shifting as many as 5,000 U.S. Marines from Japan to the Mariana Islands in Dededo, Guam.
"We have invested heavily in supporting this buildup and while there have been challenges along the way, we continue to make progress to ensure that it is good for Guam and our people," Bordallo said. "Turning back now may jeopardize this progress, which includes significant civilian infrastructure investments."
The new labor policies adopted under President Barack Obama's administration has led to many foreign workers being sent home. There are about 180 H-2B visas active, compared to 1,200 from the same time last year, according to Calvo's statement.
Calvo has called on the island's attorney general to join a lawsuit filed by a dozen Guam businesses last October contesting the visa denials. The lawsuit alleges the high rejection rate represents an unlawful change in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service policy.