Sunday, February 10, 2008

After three years, Texas incident remains a hot immigration issue

Three years ago this month, U.S. Border Patriol agents Ignacio 'Nacho' Ramos and José Compean encountered a Mexican citizen in the Texas desert, heading north with a van full of 800 lbs. of marijuana. The Mexican, Osvaldo Adrete Davila, ran south, ditching the van just before the border. Davila sprinted across the border, half-turning and waving something silvery in the air. Ramos and Compean fired, hitting him in the buttocks.

Davila disappeared across the border, and the agents discovered the contents of the van. After close to a year, a jury in El Paso convicted the two of assault, obstruction of justice and civil rights violations. Each received lengthy federal prison sentences: 11 years for Ramos, 12 for Compean.

Conservative media took up the cause, portraying Ramos and Compean as martyrs to an immigration policy out of control. CNN's Lou Dobbs called the agents' imprisonment an 'outrage' and 'warrantles.' At a 'Meet Mike Huckabee' event last month in Iowa, the former Arkansas governor said, 'Of course I would review their case,' adding that he hoped the agents would be back home by Valentine's Day 2009, just after a new president takes office. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have not commented on the case.

Bush has so far declined to pardon the agents. His spokeswoman noted that their case is on appeal, and that neither has applied for a pardon, which requires admitting guilt.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has held hearings on the case, saying the agents' sentences were too harsh and their case should be reviewed. Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts has introduced a resolution in the House calling on Bush to commute the agents' sentences to time served. The bill has bipartisan support with 75 co-sponsors.

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