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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

Associated Press Updated: July 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm 0

The Monitor of McAllen. July 21, 2014.

Is Gov. Perry playing politics or being earnest about public safety?

We are certain Gov. Rick Perry did not take lightly the enormous responsibility as the state's commander-in-chief when deciding to deploy the Texas National Guard to the border region to support the Texas Department of Public Safety, which itself is helping an overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol secure our international border with Mexico.

So we commend him on taking decisive action. But we withhold judgment on the wisdom of his action until we have more information.

What is readily apparent is that this move provides enormous political capital to an elected official who will soon be out of office and who is considering a second run for the White House. It also becomes a rallying point for Republicans before a national midterm election against the policies of President Barack Obama and Democrats who support him.

And while we are not naïve enough to presume that politics should not be considered in such a deployment, we are concerned that politics might be the primary consideration. Since any type of military maneuver involves an element of risk to a soldier's safety, such a consideration would be the height of cynicism in extremely cynical times.

The deployment of combat-trained troops, in whatever role they ultimately play, adds a layer of complexity to an already complex situation.

If anything, Perry's announcement of the deployment demonstrated how little we know about the extent of the current situation.

We have been told, for example, that up to 57,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the border and been detained. Perry announced that this represents merely 20 percent of the total number of immigrants who have been caught this year.

That is an extraordinary figure and would seem to back his rationale for providing help.

But we have seen few statistics beyond those that seem to justify one policymaker's actions versus another.

We know that the Border Patrol has a virtual blackout on information. In that vacuum, we call on Gov. Perry to provide additional information from the perspective of the DPS. He alluded to the challenge that state troopers are having in their current support role of the federal government; we need to know more specifically the extent of that challenge.

We are distraught that during his announcement to deploy troops, Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott — all of whom have acknowledged the humanitarian crisis brewing in our region — did little to secure funds to help with that crisis.

So we see enormous expenditures being proposed for border security efforts at both the federal and state levels, while relatively little money seems earmarked for humanitarian aid, a responsibility that has fallen to charities and local taxpayers to fund.

So on one hand, proponents of a border buildup are decrying the failure of the federal government to adequately do its job. But the very proof of this failure — the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America — seem to be a symptom of a crisis in which few people want to address.

If deployment of the National Guard is necessary for the safety of Texans, then the deployment of humanitarian aid must also be a factor in this complex equation.

___

Longview News-Journal. July 24, 2014.

Some just don't want to hear the truth of the border crisis

If political courage ever has been displayed in abundance, that certainly is not the case these days. More likely we see weak-kneed politicians pandering to the least-informed and loudest voices they hear, then echoing back even louder with even less logic.

We had a true example of political courage last week in Longview, though, as state Rep. David Simpson told his constituents the plain truth about the situation of immigrant children flooding our southern border.

As might be expected, the loudest voices in the room did not want to hear the truth. We can't be sure they even listened to what Simpson had to say. Those with closed minds rarely have ears to hear.

But they have mouths to speak, and speak they did:

"It's an invasion."

"They are all criminals."

"These people have leprosy and polio."

None of those are true. To the last point, polio hasn't been an issue in this hemisphere for decades. That anyone would seriously say immigrant children are bringing it across our border shows the level of ignorance in this debate.

This issue is complex and, unfortunately, too many of our East Texas, state and national elected officials apparently are not willing to take the time to deeply understand the issues at hand — or honest enough to acknowledge the truth. That would take too much time and not make for a good sound bite.

Simpson is an exception in this case. We hope he isn't depressed by the cacophony because what's important is that he is speaking the firsthand truth about the situation.

Simpson went to the border not as a politically self-serving photo op (see: Perry, Rick; Gohmert, Louie; or Patrick, Dan) but to actually learn what is going on. Simpson took his children with him. It was a family experience, and it obviously made an impact.

This is what we want from our leaders.

During the public meeting, one person told Simpson his first priority should be to do what his constituents want.

Well, no.

Simpson's first priority — as with all elected officials — should be to do what is right.

Simpson explained these young immigrants are in need of serious help, and the United States — the richest nation on Earth — should step forward to do what is necessary. He also said, correctly, that calling a special session of the Legislature to address the situation would be wasteful and nonproductive.

The children crossing our border are fleeing countries like Honduras, which has a homicide rate of 90 per 100,000 population, and Guatemala, where the rate is 40 per 100,000. Compare that to a combat zone like Afghanistan, with a rate of 28 per 100,000.

Beyond such data, Simpson met with the children and learned firsthand that their stories of brutal violence are true.

What's not true is that these children are fleeing their home countries because of U.S. policies that give a "free ride." If it were, Costa Rica and Mexico would not be seeing the same spike in applications for asylum. In the past few years, the increase was at 712 percent.

But loud voices often do not care about such matters; they just want what they see as best for themselves or their political goals.

Simpson always has worn his Christian beliefs on his sleeve for all to see, and we commend him for that. His views on what should be done obviously come directly from Christian teachings. A few of his louder constituents may feel he has not been true to them, but he has a more important allegiance: Christ, Jesus.

___

Corpus Christi Caller-Times. July 25, 2014.

The border's most dangerous disease is our hysteria

Put those fears of catching ebola from immigrant children to rest.

Health professionals at the ninth annual Border Health Conference are sending the clear signal that the thousands of children flooding the border from Central America won't infect us all with exotic diseases. That's in direct conflict with health-scare hysterics perpetrated by political opportunism and bad journalism.

Ebola, for example, isn't found in Central America. But that didn't stop U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., from raising concerns about it in a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gingrey is a doctor and ought to know better. The fact-checkers at PolitiFact gave Gingrey a "Pants On Fire" rating for that one.

There are other maladies on a long scare list — leprosy, dengue fever, tuberculosis, measles, scabies and lice.

The infectious disease scare is one of the uglier symptoms of the nation's immigration policy debate. The message that these children are hazardous to our health makes it easier to view them as less than human.

They are not incubators of doom. They're just frightened children — "skinny, awkward and oftentimes bewildered children," according to one pediatrician quoted by Scripps Washington correspondent Trish Choate. They show signs of physical stress from the arduous journey and mental stress because, the pediatrician pointed out, they haven't seen their parents in a while and miss them.

Thank you, doctor, for rehumanizing them.

An estimated 57,000 of them have crossed the border this year so far. They walked the length of Mexico, or clung to the roofs or couplings of freight trains dubbed death trains. So, of course they're stressed mentally, worn out physically, and hungry. Their health issues include dehydration, upper-respiratory infection, skin abrasions and the aforementioned lice and scabies. Tuberculosis and swine flu cases have been rare. Some of the children have come down with what was described as garden-variety pneumonia because they're physically rundown and vulnerable to it. The diseases brought by immigrant detainees are diseases we already have here.

Choate's story reported that the children's countries of origin have vaccination rates about the same as the United States' rate of 94 percent. They aren't nearly as backward as the behavior of some misguided misanthropic U.S. citizens toward them.

The children's condition underscores that this is, indeed, a humanitarian crisis. We as a nation have met this crisis with humanitarian resources, housing and feeding and taking care of the ills of these children until they are placed with family here, or until a court hearing decides whether they can stay. Unfortunately, that message of compassion is drowned out by angry rhetoric and belligerent gestures such as Gov. Rick Perry's decision to send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border.

This time of crisis has not been our finest hour as a people and a nation. The timing of the Border Health Conference couldn't have been better.

___

Midland Reporter-Telegram. July 23, 2014.

Perry's border decision raises questions about political motivation

There are times when we are uncertain if Rick Perry is the Texas governor or a candidate for president.

Last week, Perry, acting as the governor, announced he will send as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Perry said the extra troops, to be mobilized in the next month, were needed because a huge influx of unaccompanied minors threatened to distract the Border Patrol from their mission of apprehending dangerous criminals associated with Mexican drug cartels and affiliated gangs who see the crisis as an opportunity to penetrate the stretched U.S. defenses.

Perry, according to the American-Statesman report, said that while the harrowing tales of unaccompanied minors coming to America at great risk and terrible cost "has rightfully captured the national attention," the children make up only 20 percent of those crossing the border illegally.

The guard's deployment, according to The Associated Press, will cost Texas an estimated $12 million a month. Texas Adjutant General John Nichols said his troops would simply be "referring and deterring" immigrants and not detaining people — though Nichols said the National Guard could if asked.

We credit Perry for acting when Washington won't. We said here before that President Obama and lawmakers in Washington have failed to act in the country's best interest when it comes to the border. This crisis is no different.

However, our concern is Perry's true motivation. Forgive us for being skeptical. We remember when the governor vetoed Tom Craddick's texting while driving bill in 2011 before his first run for president.

We saw Perry order Texas girls to get a vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cancer. We later learned that a former Perry chief of staff was a lobbyist pushing for the order. Perry later called the HPV vaccine order a mistake.

We could also go through Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor episode, but the point has been made.

For Texans, it would be easier to see our governor handling a problem because it's in the state's best interest not because it best serves his presidential aspirations.

Perry also hasn't let the crisis at the border prevent him from offering foreign policy criticism to Rand Paul. Perry, according to the AP, said Paul's "isolationist" views are dangerous. Paul responded, saying "With 60,000 foreign children streaming across the Texas border, I am surprised Governor Perry has apparently still found time to mischaracterize and attack my foreign policy."

Last week, The Dallas Morning News reported sheriffs in Cameron and Hidalgo counties question the need for "sending military personnel who are not authorized to stop, question or arrest anyone." They also said they were not consulted ahead of time and felt the money would have been better spent giving local law enforcement more funds."

Time will tell if the money Perry is spending is worth it. History will show if the decision was best for Texas or Perry's future ambitions. For now, we have to take the governor's word that the decision is in the best interest of the state, no matter how hard it is for us to do so.

___

San Antonio Express-News. July 27, 2014.

Texas leads in emissions, fights change

It's unfortunate that discussion about climate change is draped in partisan rhetoric.

Texas could be a leader in addressing climate change. Instead, this great state is a leader in greenhouse gas emissions — at tremendous potential cost.

Great challenges bring great opportunity.

Texas has an opportunity to invest and develop clean technologies and energy policies that could change this country and the world.

Investment that just might spare Texas' coastlines from rising sea levels. Investment that just might spare Texas' agriculture from blistering heat and prolonged drought. Investment that could bolster the state's energy sector long-term.

Unfortunately, we can't have this discussion in Texas because the very notion of climate change — something that has near universal scientific consensus — is simply dismissed as liberal engineering by many of our leading politicians.

Gov. Rick Perry has repeatedly cast doubt on climate change science.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions — and lost.

Abbott's gubernatorial opponent, Wendy Davis, has underwhelmed us on climate change.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who is the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is missing in action on this issue. His denial of climate change is nuanced but his record — his non-record — speaks for itself.

After NASA recently launched a spacecraft to study carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Smith was full of lament.

"I worry that if NASA is asked to collect greenhouse gas data, it will have to sacrifice its core exploration mission," he said.

We didn't buy it. We fear that his fear was that even more NASA data on greenhouse gases would solidify the facts — that what makes this cycle of climate change different is man's contribution to it.

The follies of such political caricature are laid bare in an outstanding report for The Texas Tribune by Neena Satija.

As it turns out, Texas has an abundance of leading scientists on climate change.

These are experts whom our elected leaders ignore.

"I think Texas is quite vulnerable in terms of agriculture and water," Bruce McCarl, an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University, told Satija. "We're probably the most affected state."

Likewise, the state's climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, also of Texas A&M, has predicted the state's water supply could fall by 15 percent due to global warming.

But no one in state government is interested.

Instead, our political deniers — their sound-bite rhetoric can hardly be called leadership — argue the science is unsettled and the Earth naturally warms and cools.

At this point, 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate change studies are in agreement about human impact on the earth's climate.

Yes, there are natural climate shifts, but over the last 100 years, the Earth has been heating up at a rate far greater than in the last 11,000 years, research has shown.

Denying plays well in today's political climate, but at what long-term cost?

We have everything to gain by being a leader in addressing climate change, and so much to lose by embracing denial.

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