Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bush Commutes Sentences of Two Texas Border Agents

As a president reaches the end of his tenure, there is always the careful watch to see if he grants any last-minute pardons or other alterations of a person's sentence. The controversial decision by President Bill Clinton to pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich as one of his last acts in office resulted in great protest and still lingers as part of his legacy eight years later. With President George W. Bush having his last full day as our leader yesterday, would he make any similarly provocative decisions? Apparently not. However, his signature yesterday did result in commuted sentences for U.S. border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean to end a case that received a great deal of attention both here in Texas and around the world.

Ramos and Compean were convicted of shooting an admitted drug smuggler as he attempted to escape across the Rio Grande. While the two agents claimed that the act was done in self-defense, the fact that the gun shot wounds were in the buttocks left some doubt in the story. The case for the prosecution was further strengthened by the fact that Ramos and Compean did not report the shooting and tampered with the scene by picking up spent shell casings. The two men were sentenced to ten years in prison. Now, with the commutation approved by the President, they will be released within two months.

This story has been a hot topic for several years and the two agents became symbols for those who are fighting for stricter efforts against illegal immigration. The names Ramos and Compean became commonplace on talk shows and blogs. The decision to commute the men, instead of providing for a full pardon, seems to be a satisfactory conclusion for those on both sides.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) was one lawmaker who agreed with the decision and said, "I do not condone the actions of these two men, but I believe the mandatory 10-year sentencing guidelines used in this case were excessive."

At Bertolino LLP, we make it a top priority to know the most current information concerning immigration law. As attorneys in the great state of Texas, we know that federal policies surrounding immigration have a direct effect on our communities. If you have questions or concerns in this controversial area, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today. Let's see what we can do to help.

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