Leg­is­la­tors seek re­view of border agents’ con­vic­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

Democrats and Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill have asked for con­gres­sional hear­ings and re­views by the White House and Jus­tice De­part­ment into the con­vic­tion of two U.S. Border Pa­trol agents who shot and wounded a flee­ing drug sus­pect.

The agents, con­victed by a fed­eral jury in El Paso in March, face 20 years in prison at a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing next month.

“It ap­pears the facts do not add up or jus­tify the length of the sen­tences for th­ese agents, let alone their con­vic­tion on mul­ti­ple counts,” said Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat. “Border Pa­trol agents have a dif­fi­cult and of­ten dan­ger­ous job in guard­ing our na­tion’s borders.

“Un­due pros­e­cu­tion of Border Pa­trol agents could have a chill­ing ef­fect on their abil­ity to carry out their du­ties,” Mrs. Fe­in­stein said in an Aug. 21 let­ter to Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Arlen Specter, Penn­syl­va­nia Repub­li­can, re­quest­ing a full hear­ing into the mat­ter.

She asked At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­berto R. Gon­za­les two weeks ago to in­ves­ti­gate the case. The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice in El Paso, which re­ports to the Jus­tice De­part­ment, pros­e­cuted the two agents.

In a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Bush, Rep. Wal­ter B. Jones, North Carolina Repub­li­can, asked the White House to re­view the case, say­ing the pros­e­cu­tion was “out­ra­geous.” He said it did noth­ing but “tie the hands of the Border Pa­trol and pre­vent the agency from se­cur­ing Amer­ica against a flood of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, drugs, coun­ter­feit goods and, quite pos­si­bly, ter­ror­ists.”

“This de­mor­al­iz­ing pros­e­cu­tion puts the rights of il­le­gal smug­glers ahead of our home­land se­cu­rity and un­der­mines the crit­i­cal mis­sion of bet­ter en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws,” Mr. Jones said. “Th­ese two agents should not be made scape­goats for our gov­ern­ment’s en­force­ment fail­ures.”

A fed­eral jury con­victed agents Ig­na­cio Ramos, 37, and Jose Alonso Com­pean, 28, in March of caus­ing se­ri­ous bod­ily in­jury, as­sault with a deadly weapon, dis­charge of a firearmin re­la­tion to a crime of vi­o­lence, and a civil rights vi­o­la­tion. The shoot­ing oc­curred Feb. 17, 2005, near Fabens, Texas, about 30 miles south­east of El Paso.

Os­baldo Al­drete-Dav­ila, a Mex­i­can na­tional, was wounded as he ran from the agents along the Rio Grande af­ter they said he pointed what ap­peared to be a gun at them as they tried to ap­pre­hend him. Nearly 800 pounds of mar­i­juana, worth $1 mil­lion, was found in the van that hea­ban­doned at the river’s edge, the Border Pa­trol said.

Mr. Al­drete-Dav­ila, who was given im­mu­nity by prose­cu­tors to tes­tify against the agents, also re­ceived care at William Beau­mont Army Med­i­cal Cen­ter in El Paso. He is su­ing the gov­ern­ment for $5 mil­lion for vi­o­lat­ing his civil rights.

“The cir­cum­stances do not jus­tify the ver­dict, and th­ese con­vic­tions are al­ready hav­ing an ad­verse im­pact on the Border Pa­trol,” Mrs. Fe­in­stein said.

Rep. F. James Sensen­bren­ner Jr., Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, called for a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion and open hear­ings on the case dur­ing an im­mi­gra­tion field hear­ing in El Paso. The com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ex­pected to be­gin be­fore the end of the year.

Rep. John Hostet­tler, In­di­ana Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee on im­mi­gra­tion, border se­cu­rity and claims, who at­tended the El Paso hear­ing, said that if the ar­rest, trial and con­vic­tion of the two Border Pa­trol agents had re­sulted in a chill­ing ef­fect on oth­ers, “then it’s def­i­nitely some­thing we should know about.”

Spot­ted in his van near the Rio Grande, records show that Ramos gave chase while Com­pean cir­cled around to head off the sus­pect. When Mr. Al­drete-Dav­ila jumped out of the van and ran south to the river, he was con­fronted by Com­pean, who was thrown to the ground as the two men fought. Ramos said that when he ar­rived, he saw Com­pean on the ground and chased Mr. Al­drete-Dav­ila to the river, where the sus­pect sud­denly turned to­ward him, point­ing what looked like a gun.

Ramos said he fired at the flee­ing sus­pect but did not think he­had been hit af­ter watch­ing him run through the bush, jump into an await­ing van in Mex­ico and speed off.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tor from the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s Of­fice of In­spec­tor Gen­eral tracked down Mr.Al­drete-Dav­i­lainMex­ico,where he was of­fered im­mu­nity in ex­change for tes­ti­mony. The de­part­ment over­sees the Border Pa­trol.

A U.S. pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer has rec­om­mended in a re­port to the court that the agents be sen­tenced to 20 years.

Pro­test­ers on Aug. 20 wave signs in sup­port of a re­cent anti-im­mi­gra­tion law passed in River­side, N.J. They were coun­ter­ing a protest against a town­ship or­di­nance adopted last month that bans the hir­ing and hous­ing of peo­ple who can't of­fer ver­i­fi­ca­tion that they are in the U.S. legally.

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