OCEANSIDE — Immigrant advocates and enforcement officials seeking ways to reduce accidents involving pedestrians on freeways from San Clemente to the Mexican border clashed Thursday over a proposal to erect 10-foot-high barriers along portions of Interstate 5.
While U.S. Border Patrol and California Highway Patrol officials strongly endorsed the barrier concept, immigrant representatives from San Diego and Orange County voiced fears that such a step could result in more injuries by trapping exhausted and frightened immigrants in the median strips of hazardous expressways.
"I don't think it's going to save one life," Lee Steelman, a member of the Human Resources Committee of the city of San Clemente, said during an informational meeting in Oceanside sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Chula Vista). "I just see panic."
Meantime, the California Department of Transportation disclosed that it has decided to halve the number of traffic lanes from eight to four on the approximate 3-mile strip of Interstate 5 near the U.S.-Mexico border where most of the accidents occur.
Since January, 1987, 101 immigrant pedestrians have been killed and an additional 110 injured after being struck by vehicles on area expressways.