For the fourth fiscal year in a row, the Imperial Valley has had an unenviable and tragic record. Our harsh terrain and waterways claimed more lives of illegal immigrants than anywhere else in the nation in the last federal fiscal year.
In fiscal 1998, the Border Patrol has reported, 90 immigrants died while trying to cross illegally into the country. That is the largest number of deaths the El Centro sector has seen in recent years, probably ever. This fiscal year, 89 immigrants lost their lives. The loss of one life is cause for sadness, but to see 89 people pay the ultimate price for pursuing a dream of a new and better life is a tragedy that cannot be ignored.
For the Border Patrol's new fiscal year, which will run through Sept. 30, the agency has implemented a reorganization of service areas that the El Centro and Calexico stations will be responsible for patrolling. The Border Patrol's administration is hopeful the change will save some lives. We hope the border in this area will become so tight, so seamless that smugglers will have to move their operations elsewhere.