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Our Opinion: A message to coyotes

September 08, 2001

We've written a number of stories recently about immigrant smugglers, also known as "coyotes," facing prosecution. Four of those who have been indicted by a federal grand jury recently are charged with causing the deaths of immigrants.

We hope the message is clear to smugglers that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent if caught. And more and more, they seem to be getting caught. About that, anyone who cares about humanity should be happy.

The U.S. Border Patrol has reported that 84 immigrants have died this fiscal year in Imperial County, and many of those people were led across the border by "coyotes." Many cross the border at the most treacherous time of year — the summer — and many become sick or die from exposure to the heat. The "coyotes," most of whom are from this area, know the peril in which they put their unaware clients, many of whom are from deep into Mexico and beyond and have no idea of the harrowing journey they will face.

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Most of the smugglers do not care about life. They are in it for the money. If a person dies it might mean they have lost some profit. Then again, it might not mean that if they were paid in advance.

There is little that is going to make these smugglers stop, but law enforcement can go after the smugglers, and that appears to be more and more the case.

If it is found through a court of law that the four smugglers are guilty of causing the deaths of immigrants, we hope they are sentenced to life in prison. A message has to be sent, a hard message that human smuggling, particularly that putting lives at risk, is not going to be tolerated.

Will such a message be enough to make a huge difference? It likely will not. Nevertheless, every smuggler busted and prosecuted is a break in the chain, and perhaps a life saved somewhere down the line.

Unfortunately, just like the demand for drugs keeps drug cartels in operation, the demand among illegal immigrants to cross into the United States will keep smuggling operations in business.

That can only mean more people are going to die. We hope those who consider crossing illegally understand someday it is not worth risking their lives. Until that day, local authorities and the federal government will have to continue their assault on the smugglers.

"Coyotes" are killers willing to prey on the hopes and dreams of people whose only crime is wanting to seek a better life and using illegal aims to achieve it.

Sometimes we feel bad for real coyotes when we use their name for such despicable people.

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