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Bill would de-fund two agents’ prison terms

- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Republican congressman yesterday said he will offer an amendment to an annual spending bill to prevent the Bush administration from using funds to enforce the prison sentences of two U.S. Border Patrol agents.

Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado said the amendment would force the release of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, who were sentenced to 11- and 12-year prison terms for shooting a fleeing drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks.

"Americans have been waiting months for the president to right this wrong and I am not going to wait any longer," said Mr. Tancredo, a candidate for president in 2008. "It's time that the Congress took matters into its own hands.

"This kangaroo court in Texas has made a decision, but Congress is under no obligation to provide the administration with the funds they need to enforce it," he said.

Also yesterday, Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, and 20 House colleagues sent a letter to President Bush asking that he immediately commute the sentences of the agents, saying they were "unjustly prosecuted for doing their job."

"It is unacceptable that a federal prosecutor would take the word of a known drug smuggler over the testimony of two officers protecting our country," Mr. Culberson said. "This case has created a chilling effect along the border, and law-enforcement personnel tell me they are now hesitant to draw their weapons."

The others who signed the letter are Texas Reps. Michael C. Burgess, John Carter, Michael K. Conaway, Louie Gohmert, Kay Granger, Ralph M. Hall, Kenny Marchant, Michael McCaul, Pete Sessions and Ted Poe; California Reps. Brian P. Bilbray, Wally Herger, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce; and Reps. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Virgil H. Goode Jr. of Virginia, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Mike Rogers of Michigan, Cliff Stearns of Florida and Joe Wilson of South Carolina.

Mr. Tancredo said although his approach is "unconventional, it is not unprecedented." The House approved an amendment in 2005 that prevented the administration from using any funding to enforce a court decision barring the display of the Ten Commandments in a public building.

He said he will attempt to attach the amendment to a bill funding the Justice and Commerce departments. The bill recently was approved by the House Appropriations Committee and is expected to reach the House floor before the month ends.

"We've heard a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about how we need to make things right for Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean," Mr. Tancredo said. "My amendment is going to give them all a chance to put their money where their mouth is."

Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, were sentenced in October on several charges, including the use of a firearm during a crime of violence, which carries a mandatory 10-year sentence. They shot Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national, as he fled to Mexico, abandoning his van in Texas with 743 pounds of marijuana inside.