- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2007

Nothing can sum up the case of former border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, who stopped, pursued and shot at a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler near Fabens, Texas in 2005, better than Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s appraisal that “the whole episode stinks to high heaven.” Not only was the smuggler, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, given immunity from prosecution, but he was also allowed to cross the border (legally, under the auspices of a “humanitarian visa” that he received under the immunity agreement) unimpeded and at his pleasure, without notifying U.S. authorities and without any sort of escort. He did this as many as 10 times in 2005. And he was accorded this privilege so that he would testify against the two border patrol agents who stopped him in the first place.

According to sealed U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency documents, Aldrete-Davila is also suspected of transporting more than 750 pounds of marijuana to a house in Clint, Texas in November 2005 — some nine months after he was shot by Ramos and Compean. The notion, propagated by the prosecution, that Aldrete-Davila was a first-time mule and nothing more than small fry is clearly unfounded.

Such a lenient deal for Ramos and Compean, the two agents that stopped the smuggler, along with the 743 pounds of marijuana he was bringing across the border, was not forthcoming. In October, the two former agents were sentenced to a combined 23 years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm in a crime of violence and tampering with evidence.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, sensibly raises the question about whether the agents’ prosecution shows “how the government’s priorities are out of whack, when it will immunize a major drug dealer so that he can testify against the border agents from whom he admittedly fled.” Moreover, the federal government helped paint an un unfair, inaccurate picture of Ramos and Compean. In September, officials from the Department of Homeland Security told a group of Texas congressmen that the two agents had said they were just out “to shoot a Mexican.” The DHS Inspector-General acknowledged during a February hearing that that claim was simply false.


The new disclosures are not in themselves exculpatory of Ramos and Compean. But the 11- and 12-year prison terms slapped on the two former agents are grossly disproportionate to their mistakes in dealing with Aldrete-Davila. Allegations that they tried to cover up evidence in this case should have been handled administratively — not by prosecuting them and putting them in prison with violent felons. Prison has already proved a dangerous place for Ramos, who was beaten earlier this year at a federal facility in Mississippi; it would be unconscionable if either man’s prison term proves to be a death sentence courtesy of some career-criminal inmate who wants to take revenge on a former law enforcement agent. President Bush should immediately commute the two agents’ sentences.