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Our Opinion: Prosecute to the fullest

February 04, 2002

The busy season is just ahead, when a large number of immigrants risk their lives to cross local waterways or through dangerous desert terrain. They do so as they follow their dreams for a better life for themselves and their families.

Aiding in their effort to cross the border illegally are smugglers, those who prey on the dreams of immigrants. The smugglers, or "coyotes," often lie to their human cargo, leading the immigrants to believe the crossing of the border will be easy. It's not. It's dangerous, often deadly.

We are not naive. We understand there is little that can stop the coyotes. The demand is there and it is a profitable business.

Still, we are glad to see local law enforcement doing what it can to strike at the smugglers. Last year we saw a stepped-up effort to prosecute these heartless people. That effort is continuing this year. Three smugglers recently pleaded guilty to charges that their smuggling operations led to the deaths of two people.

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We hope they are sent away for the rest of their lives. They and all smugglers must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as a message that authorities are going to fight smuggling operations and prosecute those who smuggle humans. One or two smugglers taken off the streets may not hurt smuggling operations, but it sends a message. The more smugglers arrested and ultimately convicted, the louder the message we can send and the more lives we save.

We cannot accept human smuggling as an evil found in a border area that cannot be stopped. That attitude leads to inaction. Authorities here understand that and are doing what they can.

It may take time and more resources to create a barrier smugglers cannot penetrate. Still, if we remain focused we can make a dent in the smuggling networks and save lives, particularly if the smugglers become discouraged by fervent law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts.

We also must continue campaigns that enlighten those considering crossing illegally to the dangers they will face. U.S. and Mexican authorities have attempted to get out that message along the border and in the interior parts of Mexico. Unfortunately, many people do not seem to be paying attention.

Still, such efforts must continue and perhaps need to be stepped up. People have to be made to understand crossing illegally is not the way to make their dreams come true.

Last year 95 people died trying to cross the border illegally in the Imperial Valley. We must work tirelessly to make sure that number of deaths is not approached again.

One of the main ways of doing that is prosecuting smugglers of humans to the fullest.

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