Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., plans to introduce an amendment tomorrow intended to get former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean released from prison immediately.
Tancredo, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, plans to attach his amendment to H.R. 3093, the appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce, Justice and Science, stating that none of the funds may be used to carry out the 11- and 12-year sentences imposed respectively on Ramos and Compean by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
“Americans have been waiting months for the president to right this wrong, and I am not going to wait any longer,” Tancredo said in a press release. “It’s time that the Congress took matters into its own hands.”
A jury last year convicted Ramos and Compean of violating federal gun laws and covering up the shooting of a drug smuggler as he fled back to Mexico after driving across the border with more than 700 pounds of marijuana. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s office gave the smuggler, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, immunity to serve as the government’s star witness and testify against the border agents.
Tancredo’s amendment is grounded in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which provides Congress with the absolute authority over spending matters.
Carlos Espinosa, spokesman to Tancredo, told WND that while the “Get-Out-of-Jail-Now” measure is unconventional, it is not unprecedented.
“This wouldn’t be the first time Congress has stepped in and used its authority under the Constitution to overturn a brainless decision by a federal court,” Espinosa said.
On July 23, 2003, the House approved 260-161 an amendment to an appropriations bill introduced by Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., that prevented the Bush administration from using any funding to enforce a the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that barred the display of the Ten Commandments by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore at the state judicial building. Ultimately, the controversy was resolved when the Alabama Supreme Court intervened Aug. 24, 2004, and voted unanimously to overrule Moore.
Espinosa said the amendment’s aim is to affect an immediate “congressional commutation of sentence” by withholding the funds needed to keep Ramos and Compean in prison.
Tancredo’s measure adds to the congressional pressure for pardoning or otherwise releasing Ramos and Compean that has built since President Bush issued a commutation for the 30-month sentence of former White House aide Scooter Libby.
On July 20, Rep. John Culberson, R–Texas, and 20 of his House colleagues sent a letter to President Bush requesting he immediately commute the Ramos and Compean sentences.
Culberson and his House colleagues tied their argument to President Bush’s July 2 praise of Libby when issuing the commutation of that sentence. Bush characterized Libby as a first-time offender with years of exceptional service who had been handed a harsh sentence.
Culberson and his 20 House associates wrote that, “Ramos and Compean were outstanding Border Patrol agents (Ramos had been previously nominated for Border Patrol Agent of the Year) and were handed extremely harsh sentences while key pieces of evidence, including evidence of a second load of drugs that was brought into the country by the drug smuggler after the shooting, were not presented to the jury.”
“These agents were unjustly prosecuted for doing their job,” Culberson says in a statement on the homepage of his House website. “This case has created a chilling effect along the border, and law enforcement personnel tell me they are now hesitant to draw their weapons. It is undoubtedly harming national security at a time when terrorists are attempting to enter and target the United States.
“Since President Bush recently commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby because it was too harsh,” Culberson argues on his website, “he should do the same for Ramos and Compean. We will not rest until they are returned home to their families.”
As WND reported, following last week’s hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, co-authored a letter also asking President Bush to commute the agents’ sentences.
Taking questions from members of the Chamber of Commerce in Nashville Thursday, President Bush declined to promise to pardon Ramos and Compean.
“I’m not going to make that kind of promise in a forum like this,” Bush said at the event, which focused on his budget.
The president defended Sutton as “a dear friend of mine” and called him a “fair guy” and “even-handed,” according to a White House transcript.