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Our Opinion: Death toll rising again

July 31, 2001

The death toll rises almost every day as more and more undocumented immigrants attempt to cross through our desert and local waterways, either on their own or with the infamous guides known as "coyotes."

Last weekend we saw just how deadly our area can be. On Friday and Sunday a total of four bodies were found in the New River, on Saturday the body of a woman was found in a gas station bathroom in Desert Shores and the bones of some unidentified soul were found in the Corrizo Wash area.

That's just one weekend. Over the course of the summer scores of people have died in Imperial County while crossing into this country illegally. Just when it seems it might slow, more people die. It is a human tragedy, one repeated year after year as people risk their own lives in search of an elusive dream.

The cost of crossing the border illegally should never be death, but the fact is you cannot win out over this environment this time of year. The summer heat in the Valley is oppressive even if you have air conditioning and access to water. Without those things, the desert heat is deadly.

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Perhaps some people are getting the message local and Mexican authorities have tried to get out that crossing the All-American is dangerous. However, we wonder if they are getting the message that the New River is just as dangerous?

Unfortunately, the New River seems like an ideal route to the kind of freedom such people seek. If they can stand the stench, the New River can carry illegal immigrants from Mexico and into the Imperial Valley. They can follow the river into the heart of the Valley, thereby avoiding the Border Patrol. Border Patrol agents know how polluted and diseased the river water is and are not about to go in, and we don't blame them.

We are afraid more people will die in the New River in coming months. Many will get terribly sick later even if they do escape both the river and the capture of the Border Patrol.

We know for certain that there will be more heat-related deaths. Sadly, there are "coyotes" ready to prey on those who have little other hope.

We can only hope the U.S. and Mexican governments continue to take a serious look at this issue, as they seem to be doing. We hope they are not just putting on a show when they say they want to save lives.

It may be futile to say, but we do not want to see another summer of death like this one.

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