Shana Jones, a spokeswoman in U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s El Paso office, explained in an e-mail that jailed Border Patrol Agent Noe Aleman’s crime in trying to adopt his wife’s three Mexican nieces was that he lied.

“Noe Aleman told lie after lie to circumvent the very immigration laws that as a Border Patrol agent he was entrusted to enforce,” Jones wrote. “A jury heard the evidence in this case and convicted him of alien smuggling and conspiracy.”

With wife, Isabel, Noe Aleman surrenders to prison.
(Photo courtesy of Friends of the Border Patrol)

To top off the argument, Jones noted, “His conviction was recently affirmed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.” Translated, Jones’ assertion is that Sutton was right to prosecute Aleman because an appeals court agreed with the conviction.

Nationwide, prosecutors historically win somewhere over 90 percent of all cases brought to trial. Less than 1 percent of criminal appeals are ever successful.

Neither the conviction nor the failure to win the appeal addresses the fundamental question in this case: Was Aleman’s crime so grievous that his offense merited Sutton’s decision to expend valuable resources in prosecuting the case in the first place?

While a transcript of the case is available, the U.S. District Court in El Paso says the cost of obtaining a copy is $2,000. The alternative is to fly to El Paso, in which case we could read the transcript for free.

What exactly were Aleman’s lies? Here is how Louie Gilot of the El Paso Times detailed Aleman’s egregious felonies in a series of articles written in 2005:

  • Aleman coached the girls to lie about their ages so the oldest, who appeared to be older than 18 at the time, could be adopted as a juvenile and become a legal resident of the United States.

  • Aleman told immigration authorities that the girls’ father was dead, but one of the girls had a different father and nobody knew his whereabouts.

  • Aleman encouraged the girls to stay in the United States after their limited entry visa for a court appearance had expired.

  • Aleman allowed the girls to live in his home and attend Coronado High School without the proper papers.

So far, these seem to be the run-of-the-mill offenses committed every day by millions of Mexican immigrants who stay illegally in the United States. Yet, prosecutors rarely lift a finger against them.

Why isn’t Sutton equally concerned that tens of thousands Mexican immigrants and their extended families have just moved illegally into El Paso since 1986?

Certainly, thousands of illegal Mexican aliens right now are overstaying their visas by remaining in El Paso, if they even have visas in the first place.

Thousands of Mexican illegal aliens send their children to U.S. public schools in El Paso every day and demand free education in Spanish, regardless whether the children were born here or in Mexico.

Evidently, Aleman’s crime began when he decided to go the legal path and hired a lawyer to begin adoption proceedings.

Gary Hill, Aleman’s current legal counsel, said in a telephone interview that Aleman’s problem began when he followed the advice of Lyda Ness, the lawyer he first hired to advise him on the adoption.

According to Hill, Ness coached Aleman to give immigration officers answers that Ness believed would make the adoption easier, even if the answers were not completely true.

Hill also alleged that Mary Stillinger, Aleman’s lawyer at his trial, committed a fatal error in deciding not to call Ness to the stand during the trial.

“Had Stillinger questioned Ness under oath, the jury would never have convicted Aleman,” Hill claimed in the telephone interview.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals gives credence to the argument Aleman was ill advised. In denying the appeal, the court commented that Aleman encouraged his wife’s nieces to remain in the United States, “even though defendant allegedly believed, based upon legal advice, that the three Mexican females could remain in the country legally beyond the date of temporary parole.”

Even if Ness encouraged Aleman to lie, how many advocacy lawyers encourage their illegal-immigrant clients not to answer any questions about their legal status at all, even if the questions are put to them by law enforcement officers?

Ironically, Aleman’s case probably never would have come to the attention of Sutton’s office had he just moved the three young girls into his home without ever consulting a lawyer.

Stillinger, by the way, is the same El Paso attorney who failed to get an acquittal for her client Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos. Agent Ramos today is in federal prison for 11 years for shooting at a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler along the Rio Grande border.

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