The agents were charged with a variety of crimes related to an incident at the border with a convicted drug-smuggler who they thought was going to shoot them. The illegal alien, who was smuggling over 700 pounds of marijuana at the time of the incident, was given immunity and a visa so he could testify against the agents, though the jury was barred from learning a lot of this crucial information in what critics are calling a "miscarriage of justice."
"Before we heard about the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, we had a glimmer of hope that Nacho [Ignacio] would be reunited with our family," wrote Monica Ramos in a letter to supporters. "You can only imagine how hard it was for my husband to hear the news from me. He immediately started to cry." Spokesman Ron De Jong of the conservative organization Grassfire said that Patty Compean is concerned that her husband might not ever get to know his children. "He's missed first steps, a first dance — these kinds of things," De Jong said. "So we're trying to keep these guys in the spotlight, even though the major media has obviously moved on."
Their only hope for early release now is either a presidential pardon or the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has still not agreed to hear the case.
But activists and supporters have not given up hope. In fact, Riders Against Illegal Aliens cosponsored a benefit and awareness ride in Arizona on October 4 to help raise money for the families of Ramos and Compean. Many supporters of the Border Patrol agents were in attendance, including T.J. Bonner, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, who said, "Bush pretends there's a procedure that needs to be gone through [to release the officers], that's not true. He proved that with Scooter Libby. All he has to do is pick up a pen and commute their sentences." Representative Russell Pearce was also present, saying, "I will not rest until there is justice for these two men."
Ramos, who is being held at a federal detention facility in Phoenix, Arizona, and Compean, who is jailed in Ohio, are reportedly being held in solitary confinement for their own protection, with Ramos' wife saying that they were stuck in their cells 23 hours a day and only given the opportunity to shower three times per week. Ramos has been beaten severely while in prison. But despite the hardships, Ramos said in a letter that his faith is still strong and that the thousands of letters from supporters were lifting his spirits. A petition to President Bush for the pardon and release of the agents now has over 400,000 signatures.
Prosecutor John Sutton continues to defend the prosecution of the officers despite coming under fire from across the spectrum. Legislators and supporters of the agents also claim that the charge of discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime, which carries a 10-year mandatory minimum, was never meant to apply to law-enforcement officers when in self-defense they fire at a suspect who they believe is pointing a gun at them. As of now it looks like they will be forced to serve their entire sentences.
To let them know that they are not forgotten, send letters to:
Ignacio Ramos #58079-180
Federal Correctional Institution
37910 N. 45th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85086
Jose Compean #58080-180
PO Box 10
Lisbon, OH 44432
For more information about this case, see our Feb. 19, 2007 cover story "Punished for Doing Their Job."