Ron Wyden

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden visits in Juarez, Mexico, with children and families fleeing from violence in Mexico and Central America and who are seeking asylum in the United States.

Register-Guard, on U.S.-Mexico border

A Springfield physician and an Oregon politician have given hope to an expectant mother and her family.

Dr. Lauren Herbert, a pediatrician and infectious diseases specialist in Springfield, joined Sen. Ron Wyden and other Oregonians in visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this past weekend to get a firsthand look at the conditions facing migrants. They came away deeply disturbed by the conditions under which migrants were housed at facilities in El Paso, Texas, and Otero County, New Mexico.

Then, traveling across the border to Ciudad Juárez, the Oregonians met a Mexican woman who was suffering complications late in her pregnancy, needed medical care but faced a months-long wait before U.S. border officials would even consider the family’s request for asylum.

Her situation changed when Wyden intervened with the assistance of Herbert and others. The U.S. border officers soon began processing the family’s asylum request and promised that the woman would be taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Meanwhile, countless other families remain huddled across the border, waiting to apply for asylum in the U.S., and thousands more children and adults already are held in U.S. facilities.

The Trump administration claims the conditions at the detention centers are fine and appropriate. That is not what was found by the Oregon delegation of Wyden; Herbert; Rabbi Michael Cahana, senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, Portland; and Stephen Manning and Ian Philabaum of the Portland-based Innovation Law Lab.

A humanitarian crisis exists on both sides of the border. The violence and poverty that pervade much of Mexico and Central America has caused thousands to flee northward. Yet the U.S. greets them with a bureaucratic morass that offers neither hope nor dignity, housing them in deplorable conditions until their future is determined.

It is unconscionable that the U.S. government would treat anyone this way — crowded together, unable to sleep, and without adequate medical care or hygiene — regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. Children will face lifelong consequences from this traumatic treatment.

We have criticized Oregon’s congressional delegation for not doing more to keep the border crisis in the public eye and to achieve improvements. Wyden acted. His border visit this past weekend gained national attention, underscoring why congressional delegations should have unimpeded access to these facilities.

Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici also were bringing the issue home to Oregonians, touring Portland shelters for migrant teens who crossed the border without parents or legal guardians. Their oversight tour on Sunday left the lawmakers impressed with how Morrison Child & Family Services provides the youth with decent hygiene, health care and education. That was is in sharp contrast with what Wyden, Merkley and others have witnessed down south.

As for the pregnant woman whom Wyden assisted at the border, the senator’s staff on Tuesday said, “The mother was examined by a medical professional and cleared to travel to her sponsor’s (her father’s) home where she can receive further care.”

That is welcome news.

Wyden said U.S. officials illegally had blocked the family’s opportunity to apply for asylum. Without Wyden and without Herbert, who knows what would have happened to the family.

Bend Bulletin, on funding killed for disaster detection systems

Gov. Kate Brown told reporters that the Legislature’s decision not to extend the state’s disaster detection systems was one of the “biggest disappointments” of this year’s session.

Brown wanted $12 million for early warning systems for wildfires and earthquakes. She put the money in her budget. The money was there in House Bill 5005. And then on June 25 it was zapped.

What happened?

Some sort of deal was hashed out in secret. The amendment that zeroed out the funding was anonymous. It passed out of a Ways and Means subcommittee without debate to explain why the funding was cut.

You shouldn’t be shocked. That’s the way a lot of Oregon government is done. Sure, many legislators say all the right things about transparency and accountability in government. But they don’t always walk the talk.

What’s interesting about this episode is that two of the state’s leading Democrats were on the subcommittee that killed the money — House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney. In other words, one of Brown’s biggest disappointments of the session happened right under the nose of the fellow leaders of her party.

Maybe they don’t talk to Brown about her priorities. Maybe they disagree. Maybe they made tough choices among several programs. Shouldn’t that debate be in the open so Oregonians can understand not only what their government is doing but how the decisions are made?

The wildfire detection system that got cut is called ALERTWildfire. It is a system of cameras operated in remote areas that enable firefighters and first responders to discover and monitor wildfires. It’s run by a consortium of universities, including the University of Oregon. The devastating Camp Fire of 2018 that killed more than 80 people in California provided more urgency to expand the system in Oregon. Some of the first cameras in Oregon were installed on Blue Mountain and Steens Mountain. But the program needs money to create a larger network. The anonymous person or persons behind the amendment killed the funding for this session.

ShakeAlert is a similar system of sensors designed to enable advance warning of earthquakes. It could give a public warning from just several seconds to a few minutes. That’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. Oregon doesn’t have enough sensors for it to work. California and Washington have made more progress. As for the funding, the anonymous person or persons behind the amendment killed it, at least for the time being.

Oregon’s laws underscore that the public is entitled to know what the government is doing and how decisions are made. Instead, what the public gets is episode after episode of secret deals in Salem.

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