Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos embraced his wife, Monica Ramos, on Tuesday, two days before he is set to be sentenced. Ramos could receive up to 15 years in prison for shooting a drug smuggler who was entering the United States illegally. (Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)
After the injustice perpetrated upon Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who in their right mind would even consider pursuing a career as a United States border agent? Additionally, are there any current border agents familiar with this incredibly tragic story who will not pause to reflect, as they spy illegals entering the U.S. from Mexico, what performing their job might net them–serious jail time? I wouldn’t blame them. I will blame our president.
But this is what George Bush, and all those who agree with him, wants–open borders and free access to cheap labor. Because he is a short-sighted and unintelligent man, he desperately wishes to devalue American schools, shut down our emergency rooms, and generally spread the 3rd world throughout this country–this country that is doomed to die from the inside out as if we’re one giant rotten apple. The old adage states that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It also wasn’t destroyed in a day. It died under the overwhelming weight of immigrants it simply wasn’t able to adequately accommodate. It became rotten.
Bush has expressed his desire to grant amnesty to the already 20 million illegal aliens currently residing in the United States. If we’re truly at 20 million (everyone agrees no lower than 12 million), then the number of illegal aliens residing in this country is far more than “all of the Germans, Italians, Irish, and Jews who ever came to American in the 400 years of our history on this continent.“* In the same vein, according to research conducted by Time magazine, “…the number of illegal aliens flooding into the U.S. this year will total 3 million–enough to fill 22,000 Boeing 737-700 aircraft, or 60 flights every day for a year.”
Pushing aside ideas of MEChA and Aztlan, if you’re one who doesn’t believe we are being invaded then you’re a moron. If you’re too worried that you might step out of the boundaries of political correctness and be labeled a “racist” then you’re a coward. Both ways, you’re simply ignorant, and this country will cave in upon itself from the weight of the ever growing illegal population.
This is not an issue of racism unless certain unsavory groups or peoples make it that way. I don’t blame poor Mexicans their desire, their need to break our immigration laws and try to make better lives for themselves in the United States. I blame our impotent administration for failing to secure our borders. While the analogy may not be all that flattering, equating America to the Roman Empire, at least in this respect, is not far off the target. And like all once mighty empires, the United States will fall, but not from wars. We will fall because our government refuses to address the issue that is slowly killing us–illegal immigration.
It all starts at the border. Go ahead, refuse to secure it. Neuter our border agents and send them to jail for doing the right thing, and that will be the beginning of the end. Am I overreacting? Ignacio “Nacho” Ramos and Jose Compean, good hardworking family men and former border patrol agents, will be sentenced this Thursday, October 19th, to no less than 10 years in a maximum security prison for doing their jobs. This is a travesty. It is a severe injustice. It fills me with shame that my government would allow this to happen. It fills me with a great sadness for these two men and their families who will be without husbands, fathers, and sons for potentially the rest of their lives. This must not be allowed.
Shame on George Bush. Shame on Michael Chertoff. Shame on Alberto Gonzales. Shame on Debra Kanof.
Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Ignacio Ramos hugged his mother, Virginia Orwig, at her home Tuesday. His lawyer is seeking a new trial for Ramos. (Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)
In an eleventh-hour plea, a half-dozen congressmen are asking the Justice Department to review the federal law used to convict two Border Patrol agents of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler. Congressman Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., circulated a letter Thursday among his colleagues that slammed federal statute 924(c), which addresses discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Conviction under the statute carries a minimum 10-year sentence in federal prison.
Jones and five other members of the caucus — including California Reps. Gary Miller (R-Brea), Dana Rohrbacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) — contend in the letter that El Paso, Texas, Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean should not have been charged under the statute because carrying a firearm was a necessary part of their jobs, and that they used the firearms while on duty.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), a motion to delay sentencing for Ramos and Compean was denied. Sentencing is now scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 19,” the letter reads. “We urge you to take any action you can to either delay this sentencing or have the … charges dropped.”
Sentencing only a day away for convicted pair
EL PASO, Texas — Virginia Orwig stood in the kitchen, preparing homemade apple and cherry pies. With each turn of the crust, tears fell from her eyes. Cooking is her therapy.
She was baking for her son, Border Patrol Agent Ignacio “Nacho” Ramos, and his family. It might be more than 10 years, even as many as 20, before she bakes for him again, and before the family reunites.
Ramos and his co-worker, Jose Alonso Compean, are to be sentenced Thursday for the nonfatal shooting of a Mexican national, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, who allegedly was trying to smuggle nearly $1 million in marijuana into the United States on Feb. 17, 2005, when he was shot.
For more than 20 months, the families of the two El Paso Border Patrol agents have been struggling to cope with what they believe was an unjust prosecution and conviction. Both men have proclaimed their innocence.
Ramos’ family is numb. At Orwig’s home Tuesday, their faces were somber from worry and lack of sleep.
Orwig shuffled through stacks of letters she had written to local, state and federal leaders, pleading for her son’s life. Many yielded only canned responses. She also made more than 50 phone calls to her local congressman, Sylvester Reyes, R-El Paso, and never got a return call.
Photos of better times hang from the walls of the home, almost mocking the family with memories of times when life was simpler and sweeter.
Orwig smiled at pictures of Nacho when he was in elementary school. Then she shook her head in disbelief, and held her husband Wes — Ignacio’s stepfather — close.
Just then, Ramos’ three children came through the front door, their voices carrying from the downstairs to the upstairs kitchen.
“My biggest concern is for the children,” said Orwig of her grandsons — 6, 9 and 13 — as she continued to bake pies. The house was filling up with family.
“What is left of their childhood?” Orwig cried. “Can you imagine what my son must feel, knowing that he will not be around them to watch them grow up, to share their lives together?
“What has happened to us is more than an injustice. It is a nightmare.”
Just then, Ignacio Ramos walked through his mother’s front door. He walked up to the kitchen, saw his mother baking pies, and hugged her.
“It will be OK,” he said.
His wife, Monica Ramos, came in shortly after.
It was Tuesday. Only two days left before the sentencing. For everyone close to Ignacio, it was as though death was waiting around the corner.
The kitchen fell quiet.
‘WE’RE STILL HERE’
Ignacio Ramos relived the day when he went to help his co-worker, Compean, pursue a vehicle that had tripped Border Patrol sensors near the Rio Grande in Fabens, Texas, just 40 miles southwest of El Paso.
Ramos doesn’t second-guess himself about leaving his lunch behind to help Compean when the call came through on his radio. Ramos said he had no choice but to protect his partner and himself from Aldrete-Davila, who had what Ramos believed to be a weapon in his hand after ditching the van filled with marijuana.
During the ensuing foot pursuit, as the smuggler reached the Rio Grande, Ramos said Aldrete-Davila turned and pointed what Ramos believed to be a weapon at him. Ramos fired one shot. He hit Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks, but the smuggler made his way back into Mexico and fled in a van on the other side.
“No matter how hard this has been, no matter what anybody has said or thought, we are still here,” said Ramos, looking at his wife. “Nobody’s thoughts or ideas about that day have torn us apart as a family. Nobody will ever break us — we’re still here.”
Ramos remembers seeing Compean on the ground after a scuffle with the smuggler. He didn’t know if Compean was injured. Ramos’ first thought when the smuggler turned to him was of his wife and three young sons. He shot at the smuggler to save his life and his partner’s, he said.
What he couldn’t have known is how that day would change the rest of his life, and his family’s. And what he doesn’t understand is why the Texas U.S. Attorney’s office was so adamant about prosecuting him, and why the U.S. government went to such lengths to grant immunity to a drug smuggler to testify against him.
In the past few weeks, Ramos has not slept more than a few hours every night. The lack of sleep is evident on his face, where heavy lines are visible.
His heart is breaking, he said.
He can’t look at his children without feeling a flood of tears well in his eyes. His voice becomes choked.
“I know I’m going to have to talk to them soon,” he said. “The boys know what’s going on, but I don’t have it in my heart to look at them and tell them. I have to tell them that now they’ll only have each other.”
For Monica Ramos, the emptiness has been almost unbearable. Her love for her husband is evident in the way she looks into his eyes and touches his hand.
For months, they haven’t even had an hour alone, she said. The children have become so dependent on them that even staying at their grandparents’ for the night has ended. Their 9-year-old — whose name and the names of his brothers is being withheld to protect their identities — broke down in tears after football practice last week and asked his mother: “Are they really going to take Daddy away? I don’t want Daddy going to prison.”
“Our son is withdrawing,” Monica Ramos said. “He’s becoming very quiet. We try to stay as positive as we can around them. But they know that time is drawing near. Nobody can understand the pain we are feeling as a family.”
Monica now is the sole provider for her family. They have almost lost their home on several occasions, they no longer have medical insurance, and most of the money raised for them will go to attorneys when they appeal the case on Thursday.
Their families have helped keep them afloat. Joe and Ernestina Loya have taken loans against their home and stopped plans for retirement to provide for their daughter and grandchildren. Ramos’ mother quit her job at Raytheon Corp. to help her son with the children. Times have never been tighter for the families.
“This is almost worse than a family death,” said Ernestina Loya as she stood next to Orwig in the kitchen. “In death there is closure. This is more like torture, to take innocent men and condemn them for doing their jobs.”
Threats from associates of Aldrete-Davila have left the Ramoses fearful for their children’s safety. The El Paso Sheriff’s Department has had deputies monitoring the Ramos home since the threats came by e-mail and phone.
‘IT DOESN’T SEEM REAL’
The wind howled Tuesday afternoon, its force almost frightening, the feeling of winter hanging in the air.
Ramos can barely stand to think of the upcoming holidays. He’s already told his wife what he would like to give the children if they can manage to scrape up the money, he said.
“I didn’t want them to wake up Christmas morning without anything personal from me,” he said. “It doesn’t seem real. Everything feels like it’s slipping from my hands.”
His closest cousin, Peter Valdez of Austin, drove to El Paso this week to be with Ramos. Valdez said his biggest concern is for Ramos himself.
“I really feel that the government has made him a scapegoat for a dysfunctional system,” Valdez said. “They have ruined his life.
“But my concern is mainly for Nacho right now. … I fear for my cousin’s safety if he goes to prison. I fear for his safety even if he doesn’t go. He is dealing with very powerful criminal forces — and how will his life ever go back to being what it was?”
Ignacio and Monica understand this as well. They have already written their wills, fixed power of attorney papers and spent months transferring documents into Monica’s name.
And although what has happened to them doesn’t seem real, their love for each other is unquestionable.
In Orwig’s kitchen, they looked into each other’s eyes, not saying a word. Their eyes did not move. Each was transfixed, as though appreciating a special gift.
Then Ignacio, Monica’s hand in his, smiled.
“I was never willing to sign my life away for anything,” he said. “There is nothing they can do to tear this family apart. We have not given up, and we will never give up.
“My children and my wife will always know in their hearts that I did the right thing.”
Agents’ lawyer seeks new trial in shooting case
The men are scheduled to be sentenced Thursday and face a 10-year mandatory sentence.
It was not known Tuesday night whether U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone would consider the motion for a new trial before the sentencing. Officials of the U.S. attorney’s office said they had not reviewed the new motion and could not comment on it.The three jurors, identified in court documents as Robert Gourley, Claudia Torres and Edine Woods, said they voted not guilty almost to the end of two days of deliberations.
“I did not think the defendants were guilty of the assaults and civil rights violations,” Woods wrote in a sworn affidavit.Compean and Ramos were found guilty of assault with serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, a civil-rights charge and obstruction of justice in the Feb. 17, 2005, shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila near Fabens.
Stillinger said she saw some jurors crying after the guilty verdict and later got in touch with them.
Gourley, a Northeast special- education teacher, and Torres said in affidavits that the foreman of the jury told them that Judge Cardone would not accept a hung jury. And Woods said an affidavit that she heard the same statement but could not remember which juror said it.
“Essentially … they conceded their votes, believing that they did not have the option to stick to their guns and prevent a unanimous verdict,” Stillinger wrote in the motion.
Gourley said that he thought the foreman was relating something he heard directly from the judge, and when he found no mention on hung juries in the court’s printed instructions, “I had no reason to doubt the foreman,” he said in the affidavit.
After the trial, Gourley told reporters that he felt pressured by other jurors who wanted to resume their normal lives after more than two weeks of trial. He also said he thought 10 years in prison was a grossly inappropriate punishment for the agents.
“Had we had the option of a hung jury, I truly believe the outcome may have been different,” he said in the affidavit.
Flores said in her affidavit that she believed the foreman because, “he was very experienced in serving on juries. I felt like he knew something about the judge that we did not know. É I did not think that Mr. Ramos or Mr. Compean was guilty of the assaults and civil rights violations.”
The third juror, Woods, wrote in an affidavit, “I don’t remember exactly what it was that made me change my vote to guilty on these charges, but I know I was very influenced by my belief, based on the other juror’s statement, that we could not have a hung jury. I think I might not have changed my vote to guilty if I had known that was an option.”