In light of the Rev. Martin Luther King's two-decade civil rights battle celebrated today, your four-year fight for justice for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean may seem small, but it is in the same vein. Large numbers of the people who begin a battle always fall off after awhile as the outcome becomes uncertain and duration too tiring, but those who never quit trying enjoy the sweetest satisfaction of all when victory finally comes. Thanks to all of you who have been sending faxes and making phone calls the entire four years.
Hundreds of thousands of faxes and emails went to the White House through NumbersUSA recently -- all asking that Ramos and Compean be released from prison and returned to their families.
Pres. Bush announced earlier today that he was commuting decade-long prison sentences for the former Border Patrol agent. They will be released March 20.
Friends, all of the efforts by citizens like you through faxes, phone calls and many other protests the last four years -- plus a number of Members of Congress who steadfastly pressed the White House -- surely made the difference in removing a situation that has been demoralizing our Border Patrol in their fight to protect our jobs, our wages and our very physical security.
Ramos and Compean were convicted of violating Border Patrol policies in the non-fatal shooting of a drug smuggler in 2005. You can read plenty about the details of this case by reading my earlier blogs.
Toward the end, many people told us that our last-minute efforts were futile. But thanks to all of you who took action even while believing it likely would lead to nothing. Time after time through the years, NumbersUSA faxers have seen what looked like political miracles happen because masses of citizens just didn't give up in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Ramos and Compean have already served two years in prison, primarily in solitary confinement with only a few minutes a month to talk on the phone with their wives and children. Most of their Border Patrol agents believe their firing at a fleeing drug smuggler/illegal alien did not come close to justifying jail time. But the Bush Administration today continued to treat them as dangerous felons.
The president has reviewed the circumstances of this case as a whole and the conditions of confinement and believes the sentences they received are too harsh and that they, and their families, have suffered enough for their crimes.
Commuting their sentences does not diminish the seriousness of their crimes. Ramos and Compean are convicted felons who violated their oaths to uphold the law and have been severely punished. The commutation gives them an opportunity to return to their families and communities, but both men will have to carry the burden of being convicted felons and the shame of violating their oaths for the rest of their lives."
-- Bush Administration official on Monday
Our tactic recently has been to tell Mr. Bush that regardless of whether he believed the agents were guilty as convicted of violating Border Patrol firearms policies, they had already spent more time in prison than the charge deserved. That seems to be exactly the position that Mr. Bush has taken.
For most supporters of the Border Patrol, the Bush Administration's comments about Ramos and Compean as terrible criminals are excessively harsh and undeserved.
But I think we can all at least say thank you to Pres. Bush today for getting these men out of prison.
And I send my thanks out also to the dozens of other organizations that fought this fight (some of them far more diligently than us), as well as to the dozen or so Members of Congress who kept this issue alive right through last weekend.
Our representative democracy requires full participation to work correctly. To founder John Adams, it required the "virtue" of the people. Part of that virtue is that the people remain fully informed and fully engaged.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA