The sad case of Steven Bouknight's Cambodian bride is the kind that gives United States government agencies a bad name. Where, the casual observer asks, is the humanity? Where is the common sense?
U.S. Embassy officials refused, without explanation, to grant Sochea Bouknight an emergency visa to attend the funeral of her husband, Steven, who died April 28 in a fall on Upper Table Rock. The couple were married March 10 in Cambodia.
Steven had planned to bring his wife to America, a process that can be complicated and time-consuming. After his death, his parents wanted to honor his wish and to allow Sochea to attend his funeral.
Embassy officials have been anything but understanding, and have acted in inexplicable ways. They even failed to respond to inquiries about the case from Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith's staff in Washington, D.C.
It should have been a simple matter to grant Sochea an emergency visa to attend the funeral. Granting a permanent visa is understandably more difficult, but certainly not impossible, given the long ties between her family and Steven's, and his parents' pledge to support her financially in the U.S.
The embassy's public-affairs officer in Phnom Penh told the Mail Tribune that visa applications were protected by privacy laws and cannot be discussed with the media. The officer refused even to confirm or deny that an application had been made.
Privacy laws are important, and governmental officials should observe them. But they also provide a convenient excuse for bureaucrats who don't want to explain official actions that appear to make no sense.
It's too late to remedy the emergency visa decision. But the embassy should proceed to process the application for a permanent visa without delay.
At the very least, embassy staff should have the common decency to respond to Smith's office and explain their incomprehensible behavior.
Follow your dream, the old saying goes, and while many of us try to do just that, accomplishing your ultimate goal can be a long, hard journey with no guarantee of success.
South Medford High School grad Brian Smith, 37, dreamed of climbing to the summit of Mount Everest for 24 years, and at exactly 2:50 a.m. Thursday, Nepalese time, his dream came true.
If you have been following the Mail Tribune's front-page log of Smith's attempts to scale the highest mountain in the world then you are aware that it was a tough trek with setbacks and losses. Smith nearly died of high-altitude pulmonary edema and agonized after the deaths of a young Sherpa guide and several other climbers, yet still continued on to reach his goal.
Congratulations to Smith. His achievement is one he and his family can be proud of, and his hometown community shares in that pride.