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175 Mexicans missing after crossing border?

March 01, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

One hundred seventy-five Mexican nationals thought to have crossed the international border in the Imperial Valley area are reportedly missing, according to information provided by the Mexican consulate in Calexico.

Deputy Mexican Consul Eduardo Rea said the estimate is for 2001 and is arrived at from communications with Mexican families looking for loved ones. He said the estimate is part of a program developed in the last 18 months to obtain such information. He said of the 113 deaths in the same year, 38 have not been identified.

Local Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent Kenneth Stitt added it should not be assumed the missing people are dead. He said a similar situation, of people being sought, exists all along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The data was provided to a meeting of the Project for Immigrant Lives Task Force held Thursday.

Also in attendance was Mexican Consul General Alfredo Benitez, who said the Mexican government appreciates the efforts to help Mexican migrants.

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He said because he and others are no more than guests of the United States government, all they can do is provide moral support for the task force's efforts and cannot become physically involved. He said the consulate may only become involved upon request of Mexican nationals, and then the help is limited to ensuring a person's rights are respected. To that end, Benitez said, Mexican officials are in close day-to-day contact with U.S. law enforcement officials and others.

Benitez did suggest the American government not look at migrants the same way it looks at drug traffickers or other criminals. It also was announced that San Diego area resident John Hunter's efforts to place water in desert areas for people to drink has become a formal nonprofit organization, taking on the name Water & Winter Stations.

Hunter introduced the group's new president, Enrique Morones. Morones is a past president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in San Diego and past vice president of Hispanic and international marketing for the San Diego Padres.

Greg Pettis, mayor of Cathedral City, was introduced as the task force's new chairman. The task force is a branch of the Southern California Association of Governments.

Morones said the efforts to aid people crossing the desert are humanitarian and not political.

"All we're doing is trying to help our fellow man," he said.

Although Hunter is the brains behind the placement of water in the desert, Morones said he's added the "winter" portion of the efforts. He said besides water, the group places warm clothing, food and emergency supplies in the mountains east of San Diego.

Because the task force had not met in numerous months, Hunter provided a overview of his group's activities. He said between 1994 and 2001, there have been 183 drownings in the All-American Canal and New River. He described the canal as a "monster serial killer."

Hunter also discussed efforts to place lifelines across the All-American Canal and was critical of the IID Board of Directors for not allowing the placement.

"There needs to be some way to control these horrific canal deaths," he said.

Water & Winter Stations is seeking volunteers, blankets, winter clothing, shoes and donations. Call Morones at (619) 269-7865 or enriquemorones@cox.net

>>Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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