Pressure mounts to pardon Border agents

November 18, 2007

By Sara A. Carter - Top conservatives have joined ranking House leaders in their bid to pressure the president to pardon two jailed El Paso Border Patrol agents for the nonfatal shooting of a Mexican drug smuggler in 2005.

In a letter to be delivered tomorrow to the White House, 31 major conservative petitioners joined a campaign being led by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and presidential candidate, to ask President Bush to pardon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean before Thanksgiving.

The letter comes on the heels of the arrest of admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila on charges of trafficking marijuana while he was profiting from the federal-immunity deal as the star witness in the shooting case against the agents.

"History has proven that the mere words and deeds of a president can change the course of history and profoundly affect both the tone and direction of the nation"s moral character for generations to come," said the letter signed by 31 petitioners, mostly from Christian conservative groups and national security organizations.

"The impact of a president"s silence can have the same dramatic and devastating results. That is why we find your continued silence on the issue of a presidential pardon for Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean of great concern," it said.

Ramos and Compean are serving 11 and 12 years respectively for the shooting incident, which occurred in February 2005. They have served nearly a year in solitary confinement, for their own protection because of the high profile of their case. The pair is scheduled to appeal their conviction on Dec. 3 before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans.

The letter is one of more than a dozen attempts — including a petition signed by nearly 400,000 people across the nation — to reach the president. Mr. Hunter hand-delivered a similar letter to the president Friday.

Some of the first signatures on the long list are conservative stalwarts Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, David Keene of the American Conservative Union and Morton Blackwell of the Conservative Leadership Institute. Others include former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy and anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum.

The signers say they "find it unacceptable that some disillusioned Americans are being forced to conclude that the lives of Ramos and Compean are simply what the government has deemed an acceptable level of 'collateral damage' for a failed border security and national immigration policy."

Last week, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, whose office prosecuted the case against the Border Patrol agents, announced the arrest of Mr. Aldrete-Davila. He was arrested Thursday at the Zaragoza Bridge in El Paso, Texas, by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and of the Department of Homeland Security.

A grand jury indictment charged the Mexican national, who wore a bulletproof vest Friday for his arraignment, with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana in September and October 2005, officials said.

Federal officials would not disclose details about Mr. Aldrete-Davila"s arrest, about how he entered the U.S. through a legal port of entry, or about his reason for attempting to cross the border.

Mr. Aldrete-Davila admitted to smuggling drugs in a 2005 immunity deal in the prosecution of the Border Patrol agents" case, but told the jury that convicted Ramos and Compean that he had no idea he was trafficking marijuana in his van and didn"t know how to package the drug.

He has entered hospitals in El Paso under federal escort since the October 2006 sentencing of the former agents, eyewitnesses close to the case told The Washington Times.

On Nov. 8, Mr. Aldrete-Davila was at a hospital in El Paso for a pre-operative appointment for surgery, the eyewitness source said. That source and other El Paso sources have told The Times that the U.S. government has been paying for his medical bills.

Federal authorities, however, denied that Mr. Aldrete-Davila had entered the U.S. under federal escort several times for medical treatment.