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By Mike Blair

Two Border Patrol agents have been sentenced to 11 and 12 years in federal prison for shooting and wounding, in self-defense, an illegal alien fleeing back to Mexico after being caught with hundreds of pounds of marijuana. This has had a devastating and demoralizing effect on Border Patrolmen trying to secure America’s borders.

Twenty-two congressmen have sent a letter protesting the prosecution of the men to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a strong opponent of Illegal immigration, has scheduled hearings in November.

The agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, have been sentenced in U.S. District Court In El Paso, Tex., to 12 years and 11 years respectively. The agents say they shot in self defense.

The incident played out last Feb. 17. The agents said they were attempting to stop Oswaldo Aldrete-Davila, who had crossed the U.S. border in a van near a levee road along the Rio Grande River, near the Texas town of Fabens. Aldrete-Davila’s van had been packed with nearly 800 pounds of marijuana.

Aldrete-Davila abandoned the vehicle and tried to run back across the Rio Grande into Mexico, but was cut off by Compean. Ramos said, at the time, he temporarily lost sight of Compean before he heard several shots being fired.

“Later,” he explained, “I saw Compean on the ground, but I kept running after the smuggler.” At that point, Ramos said, the drug-trafficker turned and pointed what appeared to be a gun at Ramos, and the agent fired, apparently hitting him in the buttocks. But the drug smuggler continued his flight. Eventually, he was picked up on the Mexican side of the border by another van. Compean had apparently scuffled with the man and suffered minor cuts and bruises.

Homeland Security officials tracked down the drug runner in Mexico. But rather than arrest him, they arranged for his return to the United States—to testify against the Border Patrol agents. He was given medical treatment at taxpayer expense for his gunshot wound.

The Justice Department then charged the agents with shooting Aldrete-Davila, obstruction of justice and violating his civil rights.

At their trial, assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof advised the court that the agents had violated the Mexican drug dealer’s civil rights.

“The U.S. Supreme court has ruled it is a violation of someone’s Fourth Amendment rights to shoot them in the back while fleeing if you don’t know who they are and/or if you don’t know they have a weapon,” Miss Kanof said. She dismissed Ramos’s testimony that he had seen something shiny in the smuggler’s hand, adding that the agent could not have been certain it was a gun.

Kanof said it is a violation of Border Patrol policy for agents to pursue fleeing suspects.

“Everybody who’s breaking the law flees from us,” Ramos said. “What are we supposed to do? Do they want us to catch them or not?”

Ramos is an eight-year veteran of the Naval Reserve and has been a Border Patrol agent for 10 years. He has been nominated for “Agent of the Year.”

“This is the greatest miscarriage of justice I have ever seen,” said Andy Ramirez, a member of the non-profit group Friends of the Border Patrol. “This drug smuggler has fully contributed to the destruction of two brave agents and their families and has sent a very loud message to the other Border Patrol agents: If you confront a smuggler, this is what will happen to you.”

The El Paso Sheriff’s office has increased patrols around the agents’ homes after their families received threats from people they believed were associated with Aldrete-Davila. Meanwhile, as Ramos and Compean were appearing in court, near the town of San Juan, there was a massive search under way to find an illegal alien who had just shot a Border Patrol agent on routine patrol. This particular location has been the scene of other violent attacks on Border Patrol agents. On that same day, agents had spotted drug smugglers in an SUV, but when they tried to approach them the Mexicans rammed their vehicle into the Border Patrol truck and escaped.


Elsewhere, along the U.S.-Mexican border, snipers working as lookouts for drug smugglers and illegal alien traffickers are targeting Border Patrol agents from the Mexican side of the border. At one of Arizona’s busiest sites, near the town of Douglas, agents have been fired on at least six times.

On one occasion, a Border Patrol vehicle was struck twice by bullets as an agent swerved to avoid gunfire. Another sniper fired both at an agent and a surveillance camera.

Since Oct. 1, in the Tucson sector in Arizona, which includes border stations at Douglas, Naco and Nogales, agents have been attacked at least 80 times, including nine shootings. Agents in Tucson are facing attacks at a rate of two every three days, more than double the rate of a year ago.

Petitions to pardon the agents have been sent to President Bush, but there has been no response.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing more than 11,000 Border Patrol agents, said his organization stands behind Ramos and Compean.

“Why [does] this administration refuse to intervene in this case?” asked Bonner “Why the rush to put these two men in prison? That’s a question on the minds of a lot of Americans.”

Aldrete-Davila was granted immunity for his testimony. He is suing the United States, claiming his “civil rights” were violated.

(Issue #45, November 6, 2006)

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Updated November 6, 2006