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Probe: September 20, 2001

September 20, 2001

HIGH-SPEED CHASE — What's the point of the border inspectors at ports of entry delaying border-crossers up to two hours while our rural borders are like sieves?

About 2 a.m. Friday, a van crossed into the U.S. in the west desert and continued north until it reached a road, where it was spotted by a Border Patrol unit. The Border Patrol threw on its red lights and the chase was on.

It was a short chase. The van driver, knowing the BP would have to back off if the pursued car was driving in an erratic, dangerous manner, did just that.

The Border Patrol turned off the emergency lights, pulled to the side of the road and radioed other law enforcement agencies. After reporting a description of the vehicle and its direction of travel, the Border Patrol moved off in the opposite direction.

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The van continued north to El Centro or San Diego, since the checkpoints are never open. Authorities never got a look inside the vehicle. It could have been carrying drugs, a bomb or terrorists. This scenario occurs almost nightly in Imperial County. Border Patrol agents are willing to do their jobs — if the Border Patrol brass and the politicians will let them.

I will be surprised if this letter gets printed by all you liberals at the newspaper. — American Citizen, El Centro

We love surprising people.

The Border Patrol is in a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation. The agency quit chasing smugglers in high-speed chases because people were getting killed.

It's a desperate game out there. A smuggler will turn off the lights and drive on the wrong side of the road, said Manuel Figueroa, a Border Patrol supervisor. If the van gets to Interstate 8, it might cross the median to drive without lights on the wrong way on the freeway.

How would you like to meet up with such a van some night when you are driving home from San Diego with your family?

CLOSE TO GROUND ZERO — There was someone else from Imperial County in New York during the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Manuel Arteaga of Calexico was attending a training session just two blocks from the towers. His hotel was five blocks away. He works for a contractor at the Border Patrol. I think he was the closest Valleyite to the towers on that terrible day. He returned safely Friday. — PROBE informant, Calexico

If there's a disaster, you will find a Valleyite in the vicinity. You can count on it. Thank you .

QUESTION: Why doesn't Mountain View Cemetery fly the American flag? When we bury a veteran, we like to lower the flag to half-staff but you can't lower the flag if there is no flag. — Veteran, El Centro

Kirk Hems, one of the owners of the cemetery, said he will order a flag to fly at the cemetery. It may take awhile because flags are in short supply as Americans snap up flags to show solidarity against terrorism.

Hems said he wants a polyester flag to replace the cotton flag that became a tattered rag in the Imperial County wind.

SOME COOL AIR — Tell the disabled Brawley man whose old air conditioner broke down to call me at Hardaway Heating and Cooling. I can help him. — Angel, El Centro

OK, call 352-6500 and ask to speak to Mr. Hardaway.

Just when we think there are no more miracles, an angel steps out of the wings and creates another one. Thank you. You revive our faith in the innate goodness of people.

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