President Bush Should Quickly Pardon Jailed Border Agents

Unjustly convicted Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are currently serving 11- and 12-year prison terms, respectively, for shooting and wounding an admitted illegal alien drug smuggler whom they interdicted while he was smuggling $1 million worth of drugs into the United States. Inexplicably, Western district of Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton took the word of the drug smuggler and decided to throw the book at the Border Patrol agents, turning procedural mistakes into felonies.

Star Witness

The U.S. government sent investigators into Mexico to locate the drug smuggler, offer him immunity, free healthcare and unconditional border-crossing cards, in exchange for his testimony against the Border Patrol officers.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, prosecutors deliberately misled jurors by portraying the drug smuggler as a victim who needed money to pay for his sick mother’s medicine. They went so far as to have all evidence of a second drug-smuggling incident sealed, prohibiting the jury from ever knowing about the smuggler’s illicit activities while under immunity as the government’s star witness.

The questions surrounding this outrageous prosecution are many and the answers from the Bush Administration are few. For more than a year, members of Congress have repeatedly called on the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to review the troubling aspects of this case only to have our concerns dismissed with simple form letters. Members have publicly pleaded with the President to pardon the agents and his only response has been to reaffirm his relationship with his “dear friend” Johnny Sutton.

On October 17, 53 members sent a letter to President Bush’s nominee to be attorney general, Michael Mukasey, reiterating our desire for a fair and unbiased review of the Ramos and Compean prosecution. Given the close personal relationships among the prosecuting U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, former Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales and President Bush, past requests for such a review have been ignored.

Since January, Ramos and Compean have continued to spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, subject to conditions more restrictive than terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay. My communications director, Tara Setmayer, has personally documented these harsh conditions during her three visits to Mr. Ramos in two different prison facilities. According to Defense Department documents, detainees in Guantanamo have access to up to nine hours a day of outside recreation, covered picnic tables, soccer fields, volleyball courts, Arabic language TV programs, personal librarians, fast food, daily showers and Sunday ice cream socials, bought and paid for by American tax dollars. Not to mention detainees receive the same level of medical care as our U.S. military.

Ramos and Compean, on the other hand, are permitted out of their cells only one hour a day for recreation alone in a steel cage enclosure, one phone call for 15 minutes every 30 days, limited commissary, no access to TV, no library services, no special meal privileges and no daily showers. Is this justice in America?

Some would justify keeping Ramos and Compean in solitary confinement using the excuse of “protection” because they are, in fact, law enforcement officers in prison, which automatically makes them a target. However, when the government had the opportunity not to oppose their motion to remain free on bond pending appeal, the government took no position, which lead to imprisonment. Agent Ramos was subsequently beaten by five illegal alien gang members within eight days of reporting to prison. The assailants were never charged.

If it weren’t for the 924(c) gun charge (the unlawful discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence), which carries a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence, Ramos and Compean would have qualified for a minimum-security prison camp for non-violent offenders. Johnny Sutton decided these officers should face longer sentences than the average murderer, which is only eight years. Yet, the illegal alien drug smuggler walks free.

Act Now, Mr. President

The implications of this case reach far beyond Ramos and Compean. Protecting our borders is one of the most difficult and dangerous law enforcement jobs, and the threat of becoming the collateral damage of a failed immigration policy has had a terribly demoralizing effect on our men and women on the frontlines. They are risking their lives every day, outnumbered and outgunned, to protect the American people, while this President stands by idly, knowing that agents Ramos and Compean are languishing in prison for doing their jobs.

It is time for President Bush to act now and right this travesty of justice. Pardon Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean, immediately.