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Monday, January 19, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Commutation of Ramos and Compean

Both Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean found themselves in several inenviable situations. Of course, winding up in jail was the worst incarnation. Yet, they also found themselves in the precarious position of becoming symbols for both sides of an ideological struggle much bigger than themselves. Both sides of the illegal immigration debate have turned Compean and Ramos into symbols of everything right and wrong of this debate. If you are a believer in tough border enforcement then these two are symbols of the heroism of keeping our country safe. If you believe in more open borders then they are a symbol of border enforcement run amok.

I have gotten emails often regarding Ramos and Compean in which they are described by the term hero. I don't know enough about either to say that they are heroes. I certainly think that on the whole they were patriots. They spent nearly two decades protecting our borders. Yet, it is also an unfair assessment to say that in the incident in question that they acted heroically. In fact, whether you support the two or not, it must be said that they both had plenty to answer for in this incident. While it's true that the suspect, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, was in fact a drug dealer, this was not something they knew at the time. Furthermore, they shot him in the backside. As such, he wasn't at the time any threat to them. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that they weren't totally truthful and that they covered things up. They had plenty to answer for regarding this incident.

That said, their punishment was rather severe ten plus years each. Whatever their crimes, I think they have more than paid their debt to society. In fact, even the prosecutor that prosecuted the two said their punishment was too severe.

The only legitimate question, I think a legitimate question, is: ‘Is the punishment too harsh?’ I have always said the punishment in this case was harsh,” Mr. Sutton said on Nov. 14.

Their careers are over. They have been humiliated and spent more than a year in federal prison, much of which has been in isolation. Ultimately, while he was shot, Davila's wounds have healed. I think they have committed bad acts, criminal acts even, but they have served their time and it's time for them to be free.

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