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Our Opinion: Save lives, don't point fingers

June 16, 2001

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors has been going back and forth on the issue of lifelines across the All-American Canal in recent months, and frankly, we don't blame the board. This is a heart-wrenching issue.

No one wants people to die who are merely trying to get into this country to earn a decent living for themselves and their families. Yes, it is an illegal act, but it should not carry the death penalty with it.

Then again, we and many others think stringing lifelines across the canal might actually encourage people to try to cross the waterway to get into this country, and that might result in even more deaths as people with a false sense of security plunge into the canal's treacherous waters.

A few months ago the board voted to install the lifelines, with conditions such as no great expense to IID and that the proponents of the plan pay for the insurance for the setup. Then the board vacillated before it officially reconsidered last week and reversed itself, coming out against a lifeline setup. The vote was 4-1 against a lifeline system, and directors cited concerns such as potentially increased illegal immigration meaning more deaths and greater liability for the district.


Rudy Maldonado was the IID director who dissented. We applaud him for his courage and his heart. We do, however, think he was wrong.

The board majority had little choice but to vote against a lifeline setup after a consultant commissioned by IID reported that lifelines likely would encourage illegal immigration and increase liability for the district. The board is responsible for keeping the district afloat, and putting the district at risk is going directly against that charge of duty.

John Hunter of San Diego, brother of our local congressman and a man who has been working tirelessly to save illegal immigrant lives, is an admirable fellow. He is doing much out of his own pocket and on his own time to do what he sees as the right thing for his fellow human beings. He is trying to stop the scores of deaths that occur in our deserts and waterways each year as people try to trek north to a better life.

That doesn't mean all of his ideas are perfect. Many people, including some IID directors, sincerely think the lifeline setup would result in more deaths.

For that they shouldn't be attacked as heartless. They simply see flaws in a plan that might result in more liability for IID and more deaths of essentially innocent people.

Until we come up with a foolproof, or even better, plan to stop these deaths, calling people names and questioning people's character helps no one.

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