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Lawmaker seeks pardon for agents

Rep. Hunter rolls out a bill for two ex-border officers convicted of shooting an unarmed drug smuggler.

January 19, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

WASHINGTON — Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) introduced a bill Thursday to pardon two former Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting an unarmed drug smuggler who fled across the Rio Grande after they stopped his van with 743 pounds of marijuana.

Former Texas-based agents Ignacio "Nacho" Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean were sentenced to 11 and 12 years, respectively, after being found guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon, defacing a crime scene and violating the smuggler's rights.

The case is a cause celebre among illegal-immigration foes. Lawmakers have demanded a review, and tens of thousands of people signed a petition in support of the former agents.

"It is irresponsible to punish them with jail time," Hunter, who is expected to run for the GOP presidential nomination, said in a statement released Thursday. "This conviction demoralizes our nation's Border Patrol and sends a clear message that we are not serious about protecting our borders and enforcing our immigration laws."

Hunter's bill, which calls the conviction and sentences of the two men "an extreme injustice," would test the powers of Congress. The Constitution grants the president the power to pardon but is silent on whether Congress has that authority.

President Bush said Thursday that a presidential pardon was possible for the former agents.

"There's a process for pardons," Bush said, adding that the case has to work its way through the system. In an interview with KFOX-TV in El Paso, Bush urged people to "take a sober look at the case."

"People need to take a tough look at the facts, the evidence a jury looked at, as well as the judge. And I will do the same thing," Bush said.

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