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Our Opinion: Will this really save lives?

February 22, 2001

It appears the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors has decided to allow lifelines to be placed in the All-American Canal to reduce the number of drownings.

That's not to say that it is a done deal. The board has placed several conditions on the project, one of which could prove too difficult. The board has asked the group pushing for the lifelines to provide the insurance for the project. How that will be done is an unanswered question.

There are even more pressing questions, though, particularly whether the lifelines should be installed in the first place and whether they actually will help save lives.

We don't think so in either case.

The lifelines have been pushed by John Hunter, who is the brother of our congressman, Duncan Hunter. John Hunter and those working on this issue with him have waged a passionate battle for the lifelines. Well-intentioned IID directors have decided that it is worth giving the lines a try as long as Hunter can meet conditions such as the insurance matter. Those board members who want to see the lifelines are doing what they think is right and deserve credit for that and for setting a time period in which to judge the success of the lines.


The problem is no matter how well meaning the board or John Hunter is, this is the wrong way to go about saving lives. We agree with Director Lloyd Allen, who said the lifelines are going to make the jobs of the "coyotes" who lead illegal immigrants into this country that much easier. The lifelines could even increase their business because people desperate for better lives will be easily fooled into thinking it is safe to cross the treacherous canal. Then, if they don't fall in the fast-moving waters and drown, we can envision people making their way across the canals only to die in the desert.

Yes, something needs to be done. Allen suggested signs be placed along the canal showing the number of people who have drowned in the All-American. That sounds like a good idea, but there need to be many more deterrents to keep people out of the canal. The Border Patrol already has warning signs in place and still bodies are found in the canal on a regular basis.

What John Hunter has done is opened our eyes to the need for action. We just think this idea might result in more people trying to traverse the canal and more falling in and dying.

That doesn't even touch on the question of whether such a setup not-so-tacitly encourages people to try to illegally cross our border. Most people intent on doing so don't need encouragement.

We hope we are wrong about the lifelines. We hope they work. We hope lives are saved. We hope the lines don't encourage an even bigger flood of illegal immigration. We are hoping for a lot.

We also hope the IID directors keep a close eye on the lines and will act swiftly if the lines do not work or send the wrong message.

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