Sunday, January 28, 2007

President Bush’s refusal to pardon Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean — and White House spokesman Tony Snow’s attitude of indifference regarding same — is a slap in the face to families of murder victims slain by convicted felons in the country illegally and to our nation’s law-enforcement professionals. John and Barbara March, the parents of former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff David March, know only too well. Their son was murdered five years ago by Armando Garcia, a twice-convicted felon in the country illegally who had been deported to Mexico three previous times. After murdering Deputy March on April 29, 2002, Garcia then eluded law enforcement by slipping back across the border.

John and Barbara have worked tirelessly the past five years with authorities and politicians on both sides of the border to fight for the extradition of Garcia back to Los Angeles. After appearances on countless radio talk shows, thousands of hours of diplomacy and a myriad of behind-the-scenes political wrangling, Garcia was finally extradited to the United States on Jan. 9 of this year.Now John and Barbara March are committed to a new battle. They are dedicated to the release of Border Agents Ramos and Compean, sentenced to 11 and 12 years, respectively, for shooting a drug smuggler in the buttocks while trying to apprehend him after he had crossed the border illegally.

Appearing as a guest on my radio show just days prior to when the agents were required to report to prison, John March had this to say, “Border Patrol Agent Ignacio Ramos called me today to congratulate me on the extradition of Armando Garcia. Here is a man, scheduled to begin serving an 11-year prison term in just three days and he calls ‘me’ to congratulate ‘me’ on my family’s good news. What does that tell you about the kind of man Ignacio Ramos is? And I also ask you what kind of message does their arrest and prison sentence send to our nations Border Patrol agents? The message it sends is clear: be careful of what you do while in the line of duty. You just might shoot at a convicted drug felon and end up going to prison.”

Steve Spernak, the March family spokesman and a former decorated police officer added: “Had Border Agents stopped Armando Garcia and national laws locked him up as a repeat ‘crosser’ and convicted felon, their son, David, would be alive today. Same for unknown thousands of Americans, who have been murdered by convicted felons in the country illegally. The majority of victims are Mexican American immigrants in the country legally. This sends a chilling message to all Border Patrol agents and should to all Americans as well.”

Recent statistics and events in California demonstrate the magnitude of the problem. Over a third of the 172,000 inmates in the California’s prison system were captured while in the country illegally. In Los Angeles, 80 percent of the prisoners in L.A. County Jail are gangsters, a third of whom were arrested while in the country illegally. Last week there was a three-county sweep in which 745 illegal criminal aliens were arrested. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators, 400 were in custody and awaiting release back onto the streets.

California congressman and presidential candidate Duncan Hunter is attempting to take matters into his own hands. Mr. Hunter recently introduced the Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean. According to Mr. Hunter’s staff, research indicates Congress has never enacted legislation purporting to grant an individual pardon. However, the Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutional authority of Congress to grant individual pardons. Mr. Hunter’s staff is currently in the process of obtaining the text of pertinent House and Senate bills.

The White House stance is not only a slap in the face to families of murder victims and law enforcement. It is a slap in the face to American working-class families of all ethnic backgrounds.

Rick Amato is a San Diego-based radio talk-show host and political commentator.

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