President Bush has disappointed his staunchest supporters no few times during his presidency, but nothing — not even his failed attempt to force a flawed immigration bill upon the nation — has been more disappointing than his refusal to pardon or commute the sentences of incarcerated border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.
On Dec. 11, 29 convicted criminals received presidential pardons. They included persons convicted of tax evasion and bank fraud, and drug smugglers and dealers and a moonshiner. However, while Mr. Bush was willing to extend the ultimate gift of the season to corrupt criminal elements, he stubbornly refuses to show the same forgiveness to Ramos and Compean. Unquestionably criminal elements are now free to enjoy Christmas with their families, while the two border agents languish in prison, separated from theirs.
Ramos and Compean are serving 11 and 12 years, respectively, after being convicted of assault, obstruction of justice and civil rights violations related to the wounding of Mexican drug-smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila. On Feb. 17, 2005, the agents chased Mr. Aldrete-Davila near the U.S.-Mexican border outside of El Paso, Texas, after Mr. Aldrete-Davila abandoned a van containing 743 pounds of marijuana with an estimated value of more than $1 million.
As the border agents attempted to apprehend Mr. Aldrete-Davila, he wrestled with Compean, ultimately escaping. As he fled, Mr. Aldrete-Davila produced and pointed an object that Ramos thought was a gun. Ramos fired at the fleeing Mr. Aldrete-Davila, but thought he had missed. In reality, Mr. Aldrete-Davila had been wounded in the buttocks, yet still managed to escape across the Rio Grande, where be met an accomplice who then drove him into Mexico.
Prosecutors claimed the agents had violated Border Patrol policy when they pursued Mr. Aldrete-Davila without supervisor approval, that Compean moved shell casings, and that both did not properly report the shots fired. Testifying against Ramos and Compean, under the veil of immunity from prosecution for his actions on the night in question, was none other than Mr. Aldrete-Davila himself.
T.J. Bonner of the National Border Patrol Council noted in Senate testimony that jurors were not told of Mr. Aldrete-Davila's continued drug trafficking after he was granted immunity (something for which he has since been indicted), nor that an agent who testified against Ramos and Compean is a life-long friend of Mr. Aldrete-Davila (a clear violation of agency policy). Mr. Bonner also testified that the shooting was justified by both Department of Justice and Border Patrol policies — and that a medical examination of Mr. Aldrete-Davila had supported the agents' description of events. Still, Ramos and Compean went to jail.
From the beginning of the agents' prosecution there has been a bitter public outcry, and wide-ranging, bipartisan congressional support for the border agents — all of which has fallen on deaf White House ears.
It can be argued that the agents may have dispensed their duties in a way that on some level inadvertently abrogated the strict letter of their proper protocol. It cannot be argued that they are being punished proportionately for the offense.
Mr. Bush has made a habit of letting his penchant for brash bravado cause himself and his party embarrassment. He did it standing on the deck of the USS Lincoln when he declared "mission accomplished." He did it when he tired to convince his base and the nation that Harriet Miers was the quintessential best pick as the nominee to be a Supreme Court justice — leaving us to ask in retrospect: "if said were true, what did that make replacement nominee Samuel Alito?" He did it when he stood before a global media in Sofia, Bulgaria, and boasted, "I'll see you at the bill signing," in reference to the flawed immigration bill that subsequently suffered a much-deserved ignominious defeat. Now he purposes to make an even more egregious error in judgment by ignoring the pleas for forgiveness for two of the agents responsible for securing our borders. This is something one could be forgiven for assuming he has little real interest in doing.
Mr. Bush is no longer owner of a baseball team. The futures of the now-tortured and oft-threatened lives of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are not subject to contract negotiations. They cannot simply sell their services to the highest bidder. However, as president of the United States, Mr. Bush can offer them new contracts — contracts that at the very least show them the same mercy and level of forgiveness the president has seen fit to bestow upon those who, statistics show, are very likely to return to lives of crime. Yet the chances of Ramos and Compean being anything but committed assets to their communities and country are remote.
In the spirit of Christmastime, Mr. Bush should immediately pardon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, or at the very least, commute their sentences. His failure to do so can only be viewed as a flagrant abrogation of support for the superior and often dangerous work Americans in uniform do throughout the world to protect our freedoms.
Tell us again, Mr. President, exactly how much you value those who are charged with protecting us? Better still, as you gather with your family, and the drug smugglers you pardoned gather with theirs this Christmas, tell the families of Ramos and Compean.
Mychal Massie is chairman of the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives-Project 21 and a syndicated columnist.