SALEM — On the front burner in political circles nationwide is the hot-button issue of the Trump administration’s policy of splitting up children and parents if they are apprehended trying to cross the border into the United States illegally. While the state’s two senators have weighed in against the policy, the congressman representing Deschutes County and most of Central and Eastern Oregon is taking a more measured tone.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, wants Congress to pass comprehensive reform of the immigration system that would ensure that children are not separated from parents detained because they entered the country illegally. But Walden stopped short of saying the current Trump administration policy should be halted or curtailed, saying the root cause of the issue stretches back to before Trump became president.

“Complications from court decisions tracing back through six presidential administrations have led to the heartbreaking situation we have watched unfold recently,” Walden said. “This week, the House will consider legislation that takes steps toward improving border security and making needed changes to our immigration policies, including ensuring that children are not separated from parents detained for entering our country illegally. It’s past time to start fixing this system.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, has said the policy of dividing children from parents is a violation of international protocol. Sen. Ron Wyden, also a Democrat, on Monday blasted the policy on Twitter, saying “Donald Trump has chosen a policy to rip asylum-seeking families apart and imprison children in metal cages. We cannot stand for this.”

In other news out of the state Capitol:

Central Oregon’s ‘culture of drinking’

The state Transportation Commission will consider a report this week that says the Central Oregon’s “drinking culture” built around breweries makes the region more likely to have serious substance abuse-related traffic accidents.

“Central Oregon is a major tourist destination, not just for its winter and summer recreational opportunities but also for its drinking culture,” the report says. “Bend, the only metro area in the region, has the bragging rights for the most breweries per capita in the state and is actively marketed around the country for its ‘Ale Trail’ by the city’s Economic development organization. This culture of drinking, combined with the increased dangers of recreational driving, increases the dangers on the road.”

The statement is included in a portion of the 159-page “Oregon Transportation Safety Performance Plan” for 2019. Deschutes County is part of the Department of Transportation Region 4, which also includes Crook, Jefferson, Gilliam, Klamath, Lake, Sherman, Wasco and Wheeler counties.

The report said alcohol and/or drug use was involved in 25 percent of “fatal and serious injury” traffic incidents in Region 4. Also making the region dangerous: flat and straight highways that promote high-speed driving.

“Longer distances between population centers decreases the enforcement capabilities and increases the response and travel times for first responders,” the report said.

The Transportation Commission, chaired by Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney, will discuss the report during the commission’s public meeting Thursday and Friday in Lakeview, in Lake County.

Also on the agenda: An amendment to the 2018-21 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for a $1.8 million increase in the budget for U.S. Highway 97 work between the Sunriver interchange and state Highway 31.

New leader for local DHS

The Oregon Department of Human Services has been under fire following an audit earlier this year by the Secretary of State’s Office that found management shortcomings in foster care programs for children.

Patrick Carey has been replaced as district manager for Child Welfare and Self-Sufficiency Programs in District 10, which includes Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties, the Department of Human Services confirmed last week.

Stacy L. Lake has been named interim district manager for District 10.

Christy Sinatra, spokesperson for the DHS headquarters in Salem, said privacy policies precluded the release of more information. “I can only share that Patrick Carey is currently a DHS employee who is on accrued leave until his retirement at the end of June.”

— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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