Independence Task Force Commends Attorney Julian Aguon and Office of Attorney General for Arguments in Davis Case

FOR IMMEADIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 2, 2016 – The Independence for Guåhan Task Force commends Attorney Julian Aguon and the Office of Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson for their monumental defense of the right of the Native Inhabitants of Guam to determine the island’s future political status in yesterday’s hearing for the Arnold Davis vs. Guam Election Commission case.

Attorney Aguon reminded the court that decolonization is not a right that applies to all, but rather, “a remedy to restore a right” that was taken away from a particular group of people, whom Congress itself defined as those who became U.S. citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and their descendants.

Davis’ argument rests on the premise that not allowing him to register in Guam’s decolonization registry is race-based discrimination. The Task Force finds it appalling that our island, which remains a U.S. colony and has been denied the right to vote under this premise, is being accused of racism. Attorney Aguon not only reminded the court that Guam’s definition of Native Inhabitant is “facially race-neutral” or not race-based, he also asked the court whether Davis’ right to vote in what is essentially a non-binding decision trumps the people of Guam’s long denied right to vote for elected officials who make decisions on their behalf.

The Task Force commends Attorney Aguon for his nuanced use of the Insular Cases. He argued that in this particular case, the Insular Cases, which are typically the villain in their denial of rights to the territories, are the hero because they prove that unincorporated territories have a unique relationship to the U.S., which cannot be compared to decisions the court has made in issues involving states, because the Constitution does not always apply to Guam in the way it does to states. The Insular Cases give Congress, not the Constitution, full authority over the rights of people in unincorporated territories, because the courts have determined that such territories are not on the path to statehood, but rather de-annexation and fuller self-governance, Attorney Aguon argued.

While the Task Forces recognizes the limitations of defending this case in a federal court, which upholds the authority of Guam’s colonizer, we value the dialogue that is taking place and hope the community continues to find inspiration and drive in Attorney Aguon’s arguments.