California Congressmen Lobby For Imprisoned Border Patrol Agents
Two California congressmen are renewing their efforts to ensure the safety of two jailed border patrol agents by encouraging the Bureau of Prisons to move Ignacio Ramos, 37, and Jose Alonso Compean, 28, to a minimum security facility. On Wednesday, Harley Lappin, Bureau of Prisons director for the federal government, visited the Phoenix facility currently housing Mr. Ramos.
“If agents Ramos and Compean must continue serving their sentences, then they should be moved to a minimum security facility where they will not be threatened and under such restrictive conditions,” stated Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.). Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) is also joining in Mr. Hunter's efforts to remove the agents from the Phoenix security facility.
Messrs. Ramos and Compean's troubles began on Feb. 15, 2005, when, while on duty, Mr. Compean spotted Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, an illegal immigrant, behaving in a suspicious manner. (It would later be discovered that Mr. Aldrete-Davila was attempting to smuggle 800 pounds of marijuana into the country.) Mr. Compean ordered Mr. Aldrete-Davila to stop, but a chase ensued.
Mr. Compean called for backup, which drew seven additional units, including Mr. Ramos. Upon arriving at the scene, Mr. Ramos heard gunfire and saw Mr. Compean struggling with Mr. Aldrete-Davila. Mr. Compean was bleeding on the ground and Mr. Ramos ordered Mr. Aldrete-Davila to stop, an order he disobeyed. Both agents feared for their lives, and when a shiny object was spotted in Mr. Aldrete-Davila's hand, shots were fired, and the illegal immigrant was hit in the buttocks.
Mr. Aldrete-Davila escaped that night, but Messrs. Compean and Ramos were not as fortunate, as the U.S. attorney charged the agents for shooting the narcotics-smuggling immigrant. Mr. Aldrete-Davila was given immunity for his testimony against the agents and the government even footed the bill to pay for his treatment.
Both agents were convicted, with Mr. Compean receiving a 12-year sentence and Mr. Ramos an 11-year sentence.
“After 14 months of enduring the harsh conditions of solitary confinement, Mr. Lappin should do the right thing and exercise his authority to move the agents into more humane conditions,” stated Mr. Rohrabacher. “They are effectively serving a double sentence for an unjust conviction that may very well be overturned.”
Because of security threats from Hispanic inmates imprisoned with the two agents, Messrs. Compean and Ramos were segregated from the general prison population and must remain in their cells for 23 hours a day. Thus, they are not afforded basic privileges of telephone use, daily showers and television access.
“In my conversation with Director Lappin … I asked that he review the status of agent Ramos and consider his transfer,” Mr. Hunter stated. “Director Lappin assured me that he would personally meet with agent Ramos and review his situation, as well as the events that led to his incarceration. I look forward to talking with Director Lappin … and further discussing the prospects of moving agents Ramos and Compean to a minimum security facility.”
When contacted about the matter, Traci Billingsley, a spokesperson from the Bureau of Prisons, stated it was against Bureau policy to comment on such matters and Messrs. Ramos and Compean would be treated like any other inmates.
Joe Murray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.