OPINION: Restoring equality and fairness to our fellow Americans in the territories and commonwealths
26 Feb 2016
- By Dr. Ben Carson
MANY Americans do not appreciate the patriotism exhibited by our brothers and sisters in the Territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Year after year, you send more of your sons and daughters per capita into the U.S. Armed Services than any of the 50 states. I stand in awe of this commitment and thank you for your service to our country. All of the territories and commonwealths, especially those in the Pacific, are vitally important to our national security, due to your positions as our first line of defense against potential encroachment by foreign powers.
We often lose sight of the fact that the U.S. government treats you as second-class citizens, despite your service and status as American citizens. Whether intentionally or accidentally, we have not stood by you as much as you have stood by us. The government has negotiated trade agreements without your input, enacted labor policies that are crushing your economies and debated immigration protocol without considering how it would affect your communities, yet we as a nation continue to demand more of you.
I am saddened to hear that every day, more and more of you in the territories and commonwealths are leaving your families and homes because the healthcare and educational systems are inadequate. It is unfortunate that your economic opportunities continue to be decimated by policies imposed by politicians far away in Washington.
Medical care in the American territories and commonwealths has historically lagged far behind the continental states, and Obamacare has only made the situation worse. Good health is an essential part of a thriving society and economy, and citizens of the territories and commonwealths deserve policies that work. More must be done to fix the broken healthcare systems.
I pledge to you that if I am honored to earn your vote during the presidential primary process and am elected to serve, I will restore equality and fairness to the citizens of the territories and commonwealths.
I will work to implement the following initiatives:
• I will appoint a Territory and Commonwealth Advisory Committee or TCAC consisting of representatives from American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico;
• The TCAC will be integrated into my presidential transition team, and be tasked with performing a holistic review of all federal regulations affecting the territories and commonwealths;
• Once sworn into office, I will appoint a special assistant to the president responsible for day-to-day interaction with the territories and commonwealths. This position would be the direct connection for the Office of Insular Affairs and the citizens of the territories and commonwealths.
I am confident that the TCAC will develop a comprehensive plan outlining actions to be immediately taken through the executive branch, as well as a blueprint for legislation that my administration will actively pursue through Congress.
I would also work hand-in-hand with Gov. Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Legislature as they strive to increase employment opportunities, identify ways to reduce the current cost of electricity, improve the health care system on island and provide a strong educational system for all ages. Additionally, I want to reassure the great people of the CNMI that in a Carson administration, I would work with you to ensure that meeting our national security needs also means being sensitive to your culture and heritage — we would strike a balance that benefits both your lands and your country.
There has been a long list of examples of Washington politicians passing laws and regulations with little thought as to how it affects the territories and commonwealths. It is imperative that you have a voice in all major policies advanced by Washington. I fully understand that decades of unfairness cannot be undone overnight, but I am confident that by working with our brothers and sisters in our territories and commonwealths, we can restore equality and revive the economies and spirit of these beautiful islands.
The author is a Republican presidential candidate.