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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

August 27, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. Aug. 25, 2019.

— An illegal immigration fix? Highly unlikely

Ahead of the first Democratic debates in June, several progressive groups demanded that candidates support their “Free to move, Free to stay” policy platform that includes defunding and reforming Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol.

Some of the candidates like those ideas. Julian Castro has said that “instead of breaking up families, we should break up ICE.” Bill de Blasio also endorses abolishing ICE.

Many of the candidates, meanwhile, support repealing the statute that makes it a federal crime to illegally enter the United States. Among those who want to make it a civil offense are Castro and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner so far, hasn’t taken that leap. At the second debate, Biden argued sensibly that unless one is seeking asylum, it’s a crime to illegally cross the border and “you should be able to be sent back.”

This elicited criticism from some on stage that night and from those on the left angry at the Trump administration’s handling of the ongoing problem at the border. Yet removing the threat of criminal penalty would only exacerbate the situation, a point Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, made in a recent op-ed in USA Today.

Lankford joined fellow Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana in defending the work being done by federal agents to deal with “an undeniable humanitarian crisis” along the southern border.

They argued that recent exponential increases in migrants “are a direct result of our outdated immigration laws and the snowball effect of refusing to properly fund ICE. Border Patrol agents are doing everything they can to manage a humanitarian crisis they are neither designed nor equipped to handle.

“If our Democratic colleagues continue to work to defund or abolish ICE, people will continue to stack up at the border with nowhere to go,” the senators wrote.

The three visited the Rio Grande Valley sector of the border last month and visited various facilities where families are processed or held. They said they were given full access to all facilities and found them well stocked with food, water and clothing, and included air conditioning, showers and washers and dryers.

The senators noted that a loophole in our immigration law lets minors and those traveling with minors to quickly enter the country, and it’s being exploited by drug cartels. “Only Congress can close the child migrant loopholes that encourage child smuggling,” they wrote.

They pointed out that the United States allows roughly half a million people per day to legally cross the southern border into this country, and it welcomes more than 700,000 new U.S. citizens each year. While there are problems with legal immigration, fixing illegal immigration is imperative, they argued. “We can and must address the challenges at our border,” they wrote.

But producing sound policy will require less politicizing of the issue. And with the presidential race in overdrive already, that seems a nearly impossible quest.

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Tulsa World. Aug. 26, 2019.

— Gathering Place honored

It’s seems like every time you turn around, someone is honoring Tulsa’s Gathering Place.

The latest accolades come from Time magazine, which announced last week that the massive privately built public park along Riverside Drive had been named one of the publication’s 100 World’s Greatest Places to experience in 2019.

We humbly agree, and suggest that if the list had been a good deal shorter, Gathering Place still would have made the cut. Twenty best? Top Ten? Sure.

The park was one of three places highlighted when NBC’s “Today” show rolled out the list Friday morning. So, it appears someone thought we were in the top three. Sounds about right to us.

The park isn’t even a full year old — the official anniversary comes Sept. 8 — but its trophy case of “must see” honors is bulging.

USA Today named the park the best new attraction in the nation, and National Geographic has pegged it as one of “12 mind-bending playgrounds.” There was a big piece in The New York Times, too.

It’s worth remembering the Gathering Place is a park with a mission. The $465 million, 66.5-acre attraction isn’t just a collection of one-of-a-kind playgrounds, athletic courts and places to enjoy nature, although it is all of those things and more.

It was built with a transformative purpose.

Tulsa philanthropists, led by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, lined up to underwrite the audacious venture because they wanted to bring the city together while putting it on the map.

They wanted Tulsa to be the place to be — for tourists, young professionals starting their careers and families looking for a place to stay.

All that earned media is more than additional lines on the park’s resume. It’s evidence that the huge investment is working.

We hope the readers of Time magazine will take the listing to heart and will come experience Gathering Place. If they do, they’ll take away a positive memory of Tulsa as a community of builders and a community with something unique to offer.

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Enid News & Eagle. Aug. 26, 2019.

— Renegotiating gaming compacts an uphill battle

Gov. Kevin Stitt faces an uphill fight as he tries to renegotiate gaming compacts with Oklahoma Native American tribes.

While both sides, Stitt’s office and the many tribes in Oklahoma, have said they would be willing to talk, according to Oklahoma Watch, there is some question about what will happen when the compacts, negotiated by former Gov. Brad Henry and former state Treasurer Scott Meacham, expire on Jan. 1, 2020.

Stitt’s office maintains they will expire then, while tribes say they will renew automatically, according to Oklahoma Watch. Both sides claim to have the law on their side. We will just have to wait and see how that question is resolved.

A lot of money is at stake. Last year, Oklahoma collected near $139 million in gaming fees, according to Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Stitt would like discussions to start by early September, according to Oklahoma Watch. He has even said bringing in a mediator is a possibility.

We can’t blame Stitt for wanting to renegotiate the deals and bring more money into state coffers. We also can’t blame the tribes for wanting to keep things as they are. Of the state’s 38 federally recognized tribes, 34 have gaming compacts.

As we said, Stitt faces an uphill fight, but he’s also one not to give up. The tribes, too, seem set on their position.

We hope negotiations, if they take place, are respectful and come to a result that works for the state and the tribes.

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