Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Actby Representative Madeleine Z. Bordallo
Posted on 2013-01-03
in the house of representatives
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Ms. BORDALLO. Mr. Speaker, today I have introduced the Guam World War
II Loyalty Recognition Act, a bill that would implement the findings of
the Guam War Claims Review Commission. Since being elected to the House
of Representatives ten years ago, I have introduced a version of this
legislation in each Congress. Over the last several Congresses, H.R. 44
passed the House on five separate occasions.
This bill would implement the recommendations of the Guam War Claims Review Commission, which was appointed by Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and established by an Act of the 107th Congress (Public Law 107-333). The Review Commission, in a unanimous report to Congress in June 2004, found that there were significant disparities in the treatment of war claims for the people of Guam as compared with war claims for other Americans. The Review Commission also found that the occupation of Guam was especially brutal due to the unfailing loyalty of the people of Guam to the United States of America. The people of Guam were subjected to forced labor, forced marches, internment, beatings, rapes and executions, including public beheadings. The Review Commission recommended that Congress remedy this injustice through the enactment of legislation to authorize payment of claims in amounts specified. Specifically, the bill would authorize discretionary spending to pay claims consistent with the recommendations of the commission.
It is important to note that the Review Commission found that the United States Government seized Japanese assets during the war and that the record shows that settlement of claims was meant to be paid from these forfeitures. Furthermore, the United States signed a Treaty of Peace with Japan on September 8, 1951, which precludes Americans from making claims against Japan for war reparations. The treaty closed any legal mechanism for seeking redress from the Government of Japan, and the United States Government has settled claims for U.S. citizens and other nationals through various claims programs authorized by Congress.
The text that I introduce in this Congress addresses concerns that have been raised about the legislation. First, the text reflects a compromise that was reached with the Senate when they considered the legislation as a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. That compromise removes payment of claims to heirs of survivors who suffered personal injury during the enemy occupation. The bill continues to provide payment of claims to survivors of the occupation as well as to heirs of citizens of Guam who died during the occupation. The compromise continues to uphold the intent of recognizing the people of Guam for their loyalty to the United States during World War II.
Further, the bill that I introduce today contains an offset for the estimated cost of the bill. I understood the concerns express by some of my colleagues in a July 14, 2011 hearing on this legislation. My colleagues expressed concern that there was no offset to pay for the cost of the bill. Guam war claims has a very simple offset that will pay for the cost of the legislation over time. The bill would be paid by section 30 funding remitted to Guam through the U.S. Department of Interior at any level above section 30 funds that were remitted to Guam in fiscal year 2012. With the impending relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam as well as additional Navy and Air Force personnel relocating to Guam it is expected that Guam will receive additional section 30 funds. Claims would then be paid out over time based off the additional amounts that were made available in any given year. Not only does this offset address payment of claims but it only impacts my jurisdiction and is a credible source of funding that will ensure that claims will be paid.
Congressional passage of this bill has a direct impact on the future success of the military buildup. The need for Guam War Claims was brought about because of mishandling of war claims immediately following World War II by the Department of the Navy. The long-standing inequity with how Guam was treated for war reparations lingers today. If we do not bring this matter to a close I believe that support for the military build-up will erode and impact the readiness of our forces and the bilateral relationship with Japan.
Mr. Speaker, resolving this issue is a matter of justice. This carefully crafted compromise legislation addresses the concerns of the Senate and fiscal conservatives in the House of Representatives. This bill represents a unique opportunity to right a wrong because many of the survivors of the occupation are nearing the end of their lives. It is important that the Congress act on the recommendations of the Guam War Claims Review Commission to finally resolve this longstanding injustice for the people of Guam.