The Associated Press is reporting that President Bush, as it customary in the weeks before a sitting president leaves office, has issued more than a dozen pardons and commuted two prison sentences for people convicted of everything between tax evasion to drug offenses to bank embezzlement. Yet two agents of the United States Border Patrol, put behind bars by an overzealous prosecutor for doing their job, remain in prison.
Pushing 1:00 a.m. now, as much as I want to, I cannot devote any time to this because of a project due for class this evening. Just know that, when I finally turn in and settle into bed next to my wife at about 3:30 a.m., I’ll be doing so with a heavy heart.
These men, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, do not deserve to be languishing in solitary confinement, their families forced to deal without them. I certainly hope and pray that President Bush does the right thing before he leaves office, if not before the holidays, and returns these men to their families.
As I do not have time to provide the history and detail as I would like, here’s a piece by CNN’s Lou Dobbs, written in July of 2007:
Time to Free Ramos and Compean
By Lou Dobbs, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) — There was an unusual spectacle in the nation’s capital Tuesday, downright rare, in fact: U.S. Senators seeking truth, and justice, and taking action. And they deserve great credit and thanks.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, led by Dianne Feinstein, focused on the reasons for the prosecution of two Border Patrol agents now serving long sentences in federal prison. Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were given terms of 11 and 12 years respectively on their convictions for shooting an illegal alien drug smuggler.
Senator Feinstein, and Senators Jeff Sessions, John Cornyn, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn demanded answers of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, who chose to prosecute Compean and Ramos and give that illegal alien drug smuggler blanket immunity to testify against the men.
Sutton’s decision to prosecute the agents, to file attempted murder charges against them and seek harsh mandatory prison sentences was simply an outrage. Senators Feinstein, Sessions and Cornyn took Sutton to task over what they clearly see now as a blatant abuse of prosecutorial power and strongly questioned the decision to give immunity to a known illegal alien drug smuggler. Sutton’s office gave the smuggler immunity in order to prosecute the two agents who had pursued him in a high-speed chase, which ultimately resulted in the wounding of the drug dealer who had ditched his van, loaded with hundreds of pounds of drugs, and ran from the agents.
I have maintained throughout that the prosecution of these two agents was unwarranted, that sufficient facts were in dispute that the case should never have been brought to trial. The two Border Patrol agents received excessive sentences by any reasonable standard of justice. But reason did not prevail, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has begun the process of righting this wrong.
The agents were serving their nation in a war zone along our southern border. The fact is Mexico remains the primary corridor for drugs entering the United States. Mexico is the principal source of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines into this country. Between 70 and 90 percent of cocaine entering the United States from South America passed through mainland Mexico or its waters. Heroin brought in from Mexico accounts for about 30 percent of the U.S. market, despite Mexico’s relatively small percentage of worldwide production. Mexican traffickers continued to dominate drug distribution in the United States, controlling most of the primary distribution centers. Our border with Mexico is the main battlefield in the war against drugs, and the federal government has treated Ramos and Compean with contempt rather than gratitude for their service on the front lines of that war.
Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar Tuesday testified at the hearing that from February 1, 2005 to June 30, 2007, there were 1,982 incidents where Border Patrol agents have been assaulted. These assaults include rock throwing, physical assaults, vehicular assaults as well as shootings. In response, Border Patrol agents have responded with the use of deadly force on 116 occasions, with 144 agents discharging their weapons during these 116 incidents.
Aguilar also testified that 13 assailants died as a result, and 15 incidents ended with the assailants being wounded. Of the 144 agents involved, comprehensive investigations were formally conducted, and not a single agent has been criminally prosecuted for their actions. Then why in the world did Sutton choose to prosecute agents in this case? The senators did not like U.S. Attorney Sutton’s answers.
TJ Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents Ramos and Compean, expressed anger at the sentences Tuesday and said the Border Patrol is suffering as a result: “The ramifications of this case [will be felt] by the Border Patrol,” Bonner said. Bonner added an anecdote about a former Border Patrol recruit who eventually declined joining and said “You have to be crazy to join this outfit, because you eat your own.”
Senator Feinstein and Senator Cornyn announced Tuesday night on our broadcast that they have decided to request that President Bush commute the sentences of Ramos and Compean. The family of Ignacio Ramos watched and listened to the senators make their announcement in our Washington, D.C., bureau, and they were moved to tears.
They weren’t alone.