Saturday, March 6, 2010

Border deaths topic of documentary

‘800 Mile Wall' examines how increased security has affected immigration


Octavio Mendez wanted to see his mother before she died. He was found in November pitch black, his fluids leeched out and his body mummified about 20 miles east of Palm Springs.

“Less people are crossing and more people are dying,” said John Carlos Frey, a Los Angeles filmmaker. “We've never found a body 90 miles north of the border in the Coachella Valley.”

The coyote he paid to help him cross the Mexicali border — a six-day trip on foot — left Mendez to die in the desert last summer after he got sick from dehydration. He's not alone.

More than 3,800 people have died crossing the border since 1994, a 2009 report by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties found.

In 2009, roughly 70 bodies were recovered in the California desert and canals, Frey said.

“The 800 Mile Wall” is a 90-minute documentary by Frey that looks at how the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and the push for border security has shaped U.S. immigration policy and extended the border fence.

The documentary highlights the 500 drownings in the All-American Canal, which is a Coachella Valley water source, that have occurred since the fences were built.

A free screening will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cinemas Palme D'Or theaters at Westfield Palm Desert Shopping Center.

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