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This And That


August 1, 2019

This and that about that and this:

√ Good things come to those who keep working! Don’t believe that? Ask State Sen. Ron Sharp, the Republican whose district zig-zags from Hardesty Road north through Shawnee, and then jumps west to cover McLoud, Harrah and Choctaw plus part of Nicoma Park. That’s not enough to cover an Oklahoma Senate District these days, so Sen. Sharp’s territory then rolls north to Jones, where another leg wanders to the west while a wider swath heads straight north to Luther. Back in the olden days when Democrats ruled the Oklahoma capitol and had the right to draw the districts, we’d almost grant good odds to the proposition that the Republicans of that ay moaned and groaned about that kind of Gerrymandering but now that the GOP is running the show, by golly, they’re doing it too. Imagine!

Overall, Sen. Sharp’s constituency consists of almost 71,000 people (actually more because that’s a 2010 number) all of whom live in Pottawatomie or Oklahoma counties. Sen. Sharp is making his mark in the state’s upper legislative body. He was first elected in 2012 and he has spent quite a bit of time looking at what is called “the virtual charter school situation.” Now he’s getting some help.

That help is coming from the State Bureau of Investigation, a pretty good organization to have on your side. OSBI is seeking search warrants for evidence that Epic Charter Schools might have embezzled millions in state money by inflating enrollment statistics. Nobody’s yet to the point of swearing that anything questionable happened ... not yet anyway ... but thanks to Sen. Sharp’s oversight and perseverance, the possibility is under study. Keep an eye on this. It may turn out to be a major story in the weeks and months ahead. Sen. Sharp has been on top of this from the beginning. Thank you, senator.

√ A View From The Southern Border: Another senator who operates in Washington rather than OKC also has a knack of jumping in front of what could be tomorrow’s headlines. Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford is a public servant Pottawatomie County knows well. Before he was able to put “Senator” before his name, Lankford represented Pott County, most of Oklahoma County and Seminole County and, yes, most of Oklahoma County in the House of Representatives ... the one in Washington, not the one in OKC. He did a great job as our congressman and it looks like he’s getting along fine in the larger role of United States senator.

Sen. Lankford was in McAllen, Texas on July 21 and toured several Rio Grande Valley sector border facilities. When he returned to Washington, he had an interesting exchange Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan. Here’s part of that:

SEN. LANKFORD: I just returned back from the border last weekend, spending last weekend at five different facilities in the Rio Grande Valley area, and then spent much of the night riding along with the members of Border Patrol as they did night patrols to get a feel for what’s really going on on the ground. I went into each facility and asked to be able to see their supply room, to see food, water, hygiene products, diapers, clothing, toothbrushes, and every facility that I went into, all of those supplies were there in ample supply. I also found in some of the facilities a couple of pieces of used equipment like car seats, and I asked about that and said, ‘These seem like used car seats. Where do they come from? They said that some of the children have to be moved to different places. And so Border Patrol agents have brought their own car seats for their kids here to be able to make sure these kids have car seats when they actually move from facility to facility.

What I found was a tremendous number of very professional people trying to be able to find a way to be able to manage a problem where they have thousands upon thousands of people coming at them. In the McAllen station, in that area alone, they have 1,500 to 2,000 people a day that are coming across the border illegally, and they are trying to figure out ways to process them. When I asked the agents, ‘What would help you the most?’ The first response I got from everyone was, ’Allow ICE to be able to detain people. That’s what they do, not what we do.’ And what I heard is a pretty clear statement was when this whole movement on abolish ICE or defund ICE came about and the push to not allow ICE to get more funding and the adamant push back we’ve had on adding additional funding to ICE, its backing up thousands of individuals into Customs and Border Patrol facilities to be able to be held while they’re waiting for a place for them to go. We’ve got almost 50,000 beds in ICE facilities, but 4,000 beds in Customs and Border Patrol. And when you’ve got thousands of people a day coming at them with nowhere to go, you’re not just going to release them on the street. That’s not the obligation of federal law enforcement, just to release people. It’s to be able to process and find out who’s a risk and who’s not a risk and then to figure out how to be able to transition them. So my simple question to you is: are your facilities designed and set up to hold thousands of people? Is that the mission of Customs and Border Patrol?

MORGAN: Absolutely not, Senator. We’ve stated that again and again and again.

SEN. LANKFORD: And I’ve heard it. And so much of our conversation at this dias and through Congress is what we’re going to do to get Customs and Border Patrol in a better position to hold more people, ignoring the obvious question: why aren’t we adding additional funding to ICE? That’s what they do. They do have the facilities. They do have the contracts. They do have all of the oversight there to be able to allow a lot more people to be held as they’re trying to process them. So, I’m a little frustrated that our conversation seems to be: what can we do to help Customs and Border Patrol be better at detaining people, when that’s not even the mission of Customs and Border Patrol.

MORGAN: Yes sir, and that’s correct. Right now in just the past 60 days, since the IG review, we’ve done so much. We’ve created four soft-sided facilities, for family units alone, a capacity of over 2,000. Two more soft-sided facilities are coming on for single adults with the capacity of 4,500. I could keep going on and on, modular systems we’re setting up. This is at taxpayers’…tens of millions of dollars a month we’re spending on this. We are talking about, for us to do more and for CBP to get more for these temporary facilities—when you just outlined the answer. We fund ICE. We asked for $200 million to supplement, and it was denied. Then we question, why we are overcrowded. We’re overcrowded because ICE does not have the funding to have the bed space as the system is designed; we’re interdependent. We’re overcrowded in part because HHS was overcrowded, because ICE was overcrowded and was not properly funded, and ICE is still not being properly funded.

SEN. LANKFORD: No it’s not, and that is part of our challenge. And we’ve got to be able to break through this. We’re spending over $200 million on one soft-sided facility this year instead of giving $200 million to ICE to be able to manage all of those. So it’s not only wasteful to the taxpayer, it’s not fair to those men and women that are serving at Customs and Border Patrol to be able to do something that they were not first set up and trained to do, to try to make make-shift facilities rather than to actually have a better facility for folks to be able to go through this process. I had lots of questions there about the Flores settlement, and we’ve heard some conversation even on this dais that the Flores settlement is not the issue. What I heard when I was at the border was adults that are traveling with a child, when they arrive with a child and there’s a 20-day clock that is ticking at that point, are we able to get criminal records from countries outside of the United States obviously, from other countries, within 20 days of who this adult is traveling with this child?

MORGAN: Not efficiently.

SEN. LANKFORD: So, some countries can, some countries cannot. Is that correct?

MORGAN: That’s correct.

That’s just a sample of the type of questions Oklahoma’s junior senator asks when he’s examining conditioning on the southern border. Contrast that with the remarks — and the alleged conditions some Democratic members of Congress say they “discovered” when visiting the same areas. We know James Lankford and we know he’s sincere almost to a fault.

Are they?


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