May 2, 2010

This was surprising. I knew former Rep. Duncan Hunter's son was a chip off the old block, especially after this comment he made -- Duncan Hunter: Yes, I would deport US citizens. I had no idea his brother was on the opposite side of the immigration issue, at least when it comes to the concerns over the very large number of people who have drowned trying to cross the irrigation project called the "All-American Canal". 60 Minutes featured Hunter in their segment The Deadly Passage of the All-American Canal:

Since 9/11, getting into the United States has become a good deal harder and, for some, much more dangerous. With border enforcement increasing, many illegal immigrants are now attempting to cross one of this country's most important irrigation projects called the "All-American Canal." The canal has become sort of a national moat on our southern border, and hundreds of people have perished in its waters. It is a carnage that has gone mostly unnoticed because many of the victims are buried without their names.

In the California desert, in a field of mud, is a graveyard that is hard to imagine in America. Bricks mark the final resting place of hundreds of human beings, identities unknown. They died traveling to America in search of a life better than their home countries could offer.

...Asked where the bodies are usually found, Dr. John Hunter told "60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley, "Typically, they'll find them at the drops. So for example, there's five of these big hydro drops here. Drop one, they found over a hundred bodies at drop one, drop two they had 60. Drop three, 60 etc."

Hunter showed us the hydroelectric dams or "drops" that catch most of the bodies. Hunter is an unlikely activist: he's a physicist and life-long Republican who has spent much of his career designing weapons for the U.S. government.

"I'm a very right-wing guy," Hunter said. "I'm not an open border kinda person. I just don't believe we should be letting people drown in our backyards. It's inhuman."

Ten years ago, a newspaper article about rising immigrant deaths caught his attention. And today, the deaths in the canal system are an obsession.

Dr. John Hunter explained why he split with his brother on the immigration issue.

But in the 1990s, after scenes of immigrants rushing border stations, Congress beefed up the border, and a California congressman, Duncan Hunter, led the charge to build a better fence in San Diego.

"I'm Duncan Hunter. We built this double fence here at the Mexican border in San Diego, and reduced the smuggling of hundreds of thousands of people and tons of drugs by more than 90 per cent. The fence works," he said.

It did work: the fence channeled illegal immigrants away from the cities and rerouted them to the desert and the remote canal. Drownings rose rapidly, from six in 1994 to more than 30 in 1998. That county cemetery in the desert had to expand. There are now 850 bricks in the paupers graveyards, mostly people who drowned or perished in the desert.

Former Rep. Duncan Hunter says the fence is a success and now the canal should be made safer. The congressman's brother, John Hunter, feels the unintended cost of the fence has been too high.

"I wonder whether any of this is family guilt…that motivates you?" Pelley asked John Hunter.

"I have nothin' - guilt to me is an acceptable phrase. I mean, there is, we all love each other in my family, aside from the occasional fist fight, okay. And so I would say there is some ownership, 'cause I helped Duncan back in the day," Hunter replied.

"If 500 and more Americans had drowned in the canal, what do you think would have happened?" Pelley asked.

"If 50 Americans had drowned in the canal, this would have been solved a long time ago," Hunter replied.

Dr. Hunter's web site is All American Canal Safety. This story apparently has some of the the right wing blogs all worked up because of this statement by Scott Pelley in the beginning of the segment:

For the first time beginning this summer, police in Arizona will be able to stop anyone they like and order a check of their ID to determine whether the person is in the U.S. illegally. The new powers, just recently signed into law, have reignited the national debate on immigration.

They're complaining that 60 Minutes distorted the Arizona "show me your papers" law. The comments on 60 Minutes site is full of hate filled screeds as well. The nativists are not happy with them for running this story.

Can you help us out?

For nearly 20 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.