Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) recently mentioned the U.S. territory of Guam in a public speech. She said that she, as “a regular person,” wanted to see her “hard-earned dollars” helping America, not “China, Russia, the Middle East, Guam, whatever…”
It was clear that Greene was using Guam as an example of a foreign country. In fact, Guam has been a possession of the United States since 1899, almost as long as Puerto Rico, and the residents of Guam are U.S. citizens by birth.
Response from Guam
Guam’s Congressional delegate, Michael San Nicholas (D-GU), was giving a tour of the capital to National Guardsmen recently, and added Greene’s office to the stopping off points, attempting to deliver some cookies to Greene.
Asked about his intentions, he described the visit as one of “good will.” His office told the Guam Daily Post, “Congresswoman Greene is a new member, and we will be paying a visit to her and delivering delicious Chamorro Chip Cookies as part of our ongoing outreach to new members to introduce them to our wonderful island of Guam,”
Awareness of territories can make a difference
San Nicholas also thanked Greene for ultimately increasing U.S. awareness of Guam. Just as many Americans living in the States were not aware of the relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S. before the landfall of Hurricane Maria, many learned that Guam is not a foreign country from Greene’s gaffe.
Immediately after the 2017 hurricane season, social media included tweets asking why the United States should help Puerto Rico instead of keeping disaster relief money “at home.” Remarks like these, and Greene’s similar suggestion that U.S. funds should not go to help a foreign country like Guam, can influence public opinion.
After Hurricane Maria, polls found that people who knew Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens were more likely to favor providing federal help to the Island. They are also more likely to support statehood for Puerto Rico. This is a goal for Puerto Rico but not at present for Guam.
Still, there is evidence that territories receive less support for their goals when Americans in the States believe that they are foreign.