SAN DIEGO, CA - The San Diego offices of the ACLU, American Friends Service Committee, Citizens for All American Canal Safety and filmmaker John Carlos Frey will hold a press conference at the San Diego County Water Authority on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 11:00 AM. The press conference will draw attention to the 17 victims who have drowned in the All American Canal—a source of San Diego County drinking water—since the SDCWA was alerted to the dangers of the canal in August of 2008. The human rights advocates will encourage San Diego county residents to call the SDCWA and demand safety features be implemented immediately.

More than a year ago, in August, 2008, the president of the board of directors of the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) sent a letter to the president of the SDCWA urging the addition of safety features in the newly relined, 23-mile segment of the All American Canal. According to the IID, the relining project, funded by San Diego County, made the sides of the canal steeper and the water flow faster. Halla Razak, manager of the SDCWA’s Colorado River Program, acknowledged the increased dangers of the canal, “Once you’re in there, the water is cold, the currents are fast and it is very difficult to get out.”

“Nearly 600 individuals, mostly migrants from Mexico, have drowned in the All American Canal,” stated filmmaker John Carlos Frey. “Since August 5, 2008 seventeen more people have drowned. Both the SDCWA and the IID do not seem to believe the systematic drownings require urgent attention.” Both the SDCWA and the IID are currently scheduled to test modified safety features that are primarily designed to deter illegal immigration—not urgently save lives. The SDCWA along with Mexican Consulate has instituted public service announcements to warn people of the dangerous canal—an effort that has no proven efficacy. To date no new safety features have been added to the Canal and there is no scheduled date or plan as to when the Canal will be made safe.

The San Diego offices of the ACLU, American Friends Service Committee, Citizens for All American Canal Safety and filmmaker John Carlos Frey believe the canal must be made safe immediately. Death must be prevented at all costs. On September 30, 2009, the San Diego ACLU issued a comprehensive report detailing the unacceptable human tragedy that takes place daily in this region.

The planned press conference will call out the names of the drowning victims and provide a visual example of the enormity of their loss by displaying 17 body bags in front of the water authority, urging the SDCWA to make the canal safe now.

The coalition of concerned human rights advocates will also host a special free screening of John Carlos Frey’s new documentary film, “The 800 Mile Wall,” which emphasizes the deaths in the All American Canal as well as the role the San Diego County Water Authority plays in the continuation of these needless deaths. The free screening will be held on Thursday, December 3, 2009, at 6:00 PM at the Joe and Vi Jacobs Center - Celebration Hall. At the invitation of Congressman Raul Grijalva and the Hispanic Caucus, “The 800 Mile Wall” will also be screened for members of Congress in Washington, D.C. on International Human Rights day, December 10, 2009, in an effort to raise awareness about the drowned victims of the Canal and migrant death along the U.S. Mexico border.

For more information about the screening, call 619/233-4114.

For information about the film, visit


ACLU's Report: Humanitarian Crisis: Migrant Deaths at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Humanitarian Crisis Report - web version.pdf