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Our Opinion: Both sides saving lives

June 26, 2001

Recently the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service had two joint meetings — one in El Centro and one in San Diego — with Mexican officials. The goal was to lessen deaths among those trying to cross the California-Mexico border illegally.

While the ultimate idea is to prevent illegal immigration, officials realize it is impossible to stop it. With that in mind they want to make sure their enforcement of the border areas include doing everything possible to save lives.

As a result of the meetings, the New River and the All-American Canal were designated as high-risk zones. While that may not seem like a big step, such a designation could lead to more federal resources being focused on the Imperial Valley to prevent illegal immigration. That could lead to more lives being saved.

Officials from both sides of the border are talking about doing joint training exercises. That is a good idea, since authorities in both countries are working toward the same goal. Joint training could lead to improved communication and communication can make the difference in saving a life.

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It also was announced there would be an enhanced desert search and rescue program in the Imperial Valley. That is good news, particularly since the Valley is such a high traffic route for illegal immigration.

Too many people die each year in the Imperial Valley desert and waterways and there must be some way to make that situation better. There likely is no one answer, but when officials from both sides of the border start talking and then take action, they can start to cut away at the problem.

We can only hope the meetings lead to action and that the federal government chooses to dramatically increase the resources to protect the border in the Imperial Valley. If the government does not do so, no amount of talking is going to make a bit of difference.

Saving lives does not come cheaply. An important step has been taken by authorities from both countries coming together. It is time to take it to the next level before another life is lost in the local deserts or waterways.

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