The two cities of El Paso and Denver are 800 miles apart, but they both exist in the rarified world of “sanctuary cities,” where mayors and city officials love to proclaim, “We welcome all immigrants, regardless of immigration status.” This is PC code for welcoming illegal aliens, but it also means they welcome the prosecution of Border Patrol agents and immigration enforcement agents who take their jobs too seriously.
The prosecution, imprisonment and eventual release of El Paso Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean made headlines for two years, but few Americans outside Denver have ever heard of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Cory Voorhis. Yet, the two stories have something in common.
In El Paso, the two Border Patrol agents’ prison terms officially ended March 20, when they were off house arrest. They came home on Feb. 17 after their prison sentences were commuted by President Bush on his last full day in office. They were convicted in 2006 for violating the civil rights of a drug smuggler by shooting him in the buttock after he fled from his 730-pound load of marijuana. The Border Patrol agents testified that they thought the man had a gun, but the smuggler denied it. The sanctuary city jury believed the smuggler, in part because of evidence kept from them and improper jury instructions.
To get the real flavor of El Paso, consider that its mayor recently raised eyebrows by saying his city and Ciudad Juarez, the 1.5 million metropolis across the Rio Grande, are in reality “one city with two cultures.” If that were true, it would make his outspoken opposition to the extension of the border fence somewhat comprehensible. However, considering that his neighbors in Juarez witnessed 1,700 murders in 2008 at the hands of drug cartel assassins while El Paso had only 10 homicides in total, few El Paso citizens can utter such hyperbole with a straight face.
Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver has no such violent neighbors, but he was nonetheless embarrassed recently when an illegal alien employed in a restaurant he owned shot and killed a Denver policeman. Of course, the embarrassment was only momentary as Denver’s political and media elites rallied to defend the city’s sanctuary policies. Being the Teflon Mayor means never having to say you’re sorry.
Denver Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Cory Voorhis thought the citizens of Colorado should know about the practices of a former Denver District Attorney, Bill Ritter, who allowed 121 illegal aliens to minimize their risk of deportation through generous plea bargain deals. Mr. Ritter demanded an investigation and ICE Agent Voorhis was prosecuted in federal court. The jury saw through the political character of the prosecution and took only two hours to acquit Mr. Voorhis of all charges. The story should have ended there, but Mr. Voorhis lost his job because the federal government would not accept the jury verdict.
Evidence presented at his trial showed Mr. Voorhis had never revealed any information not already available in public records, yet his actions in spotlighting that information was unforgivable in the eyes of powerful politicians and the ICE bureaucracy.
In both cases, the United States Department of Justice chose to spend millions prosecuting law enforcement officers whose actions offended powerful political interests - in the El Paso case it was the government of Mexico, and in Denver, the governor-elect of Colorado. In both cases, lives were ruined because of an abuse of prosecutorial discretion, and in both cases, the only people who benefited were Mexican drug smugglers, green card counterfeiters - and the high priests of sanctuary for criminal aliens.
For Mr. Voorhis, the injustice did not end with his acquittal. After his acquittal, ICE bureaucrats spent a year contriving reasons to fire him for “administrative misconduct,” threatening and intimidating Mr. Voorhis’ colleagues to change testimonies given under oath at the trial. Five weeks ago, on Feb. 13, Mr. Voorhis received his letter of termination. He is appealing the firing to the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, but that appeal will be expensive and may take a year to adjudicate. In the meantime, a highly trained, veteran ICE agent will be working as a private security guard to pay his mortgage.
Cory Voorhis was no ordinary ICE agent. A former Border Patrol agent and U.S. Army veteran, he was one of two lead agents in a five-year investigation that broke up the largest document fraud ring in the nation’s history. The Denver-based operation run by the Castorena family syndicate based in Guadalajara, Mexico, sold more than 18 million fake driver’s licenses, green cards, work permits and Social Security cards to illegal aliens across 18 states.
Even while Mr. Voorhis was still under investigation, the agency flew him to Washington, D.C., to brief agency brass on the Castorena case. He was so important to the case against the syndicate leader, Pedro Castorena, that when ICE management refused to let him participate in the prosecution of the case, the U.S. Attorney’s office chose to strike a plea agreement with the syndicate mastermind instead of going to trial.
Mr. Voorhis is still fighting to get his job back and still struggling to pay off horrendous legal bills of more than $500,000. The irony is that Mr. Voorhis never divulged information about ICE’s dirty linen. Mr. Voorhis “outed” not ICE management’s screwed-up priorities but Denver’s sanctuary city practices and Bill Ritter’s plea bargaining policies. But to ICE bureaucrats embarrassed by Mr. Voorhis’ revelations, that made no difference.
The message sent to ICE agents was the same: If you take immigration enforcement too seriously, you risk losing your job.
Mr. Voorhis has paid a high price for his patriotism. Rep. Mike Coffman and former Rep. Bob Beauprez will join me in cosponsoring a fund-raiser for the Voorhis family in May. Citizens who think the federal government has its priorities upside down and want to say, “Thank you, Cory,” can do so through a donation to his legal defense fund at www.corylegaldefense.com/info/donate.
Tom Tancredo retired from the U.S. House of Representatives last year after five terms representing Colorado’s 6th U.S. Congressional District. He is now the chairman of the Rocky Mountain Foundation.