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Border security symbolism

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 26, 2006 10:14 AM

President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act this morning. (Video here.) Efforts to water it down, such as it is, are still underway:

Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, both Texas Republicans, had wanted to amend the fence bill to give local governments more say about where fencing is erected. They lost that battle, but Republican leaders assured them the Homeland Security Department would have flexibility to choose other options instead of fencing, if needed.

Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents are getting thrown in jail for doing the job no one else wants to do except at election time–enforcing the borders for real. Debra Saunders reports:

Someone ought to tell the Bush administration that prisons are for criminals, not law-enforcement personnel trying to do their jobs. On Thursday, a federal judge in Texas sentenced two former Border Patrol agents to 11 and 12 years in prison because they shot at a drug smuggler who was evading arrest.

In February 2005, Border Patrol agent Jose Alonso Compean got in a scuffle with smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, who was driving a van that carried 743 pounds of marijuana. Agent Compean and fellow Agent Ignacio Ramos shot at Mr. Aldrete-Davila — they say they thought he had a gun, which Mr. Aldrete-Davila denies. Agent Ramos shot the smuggler in the butt, but because Mr. Aldrete-Davila kept running — across the border — they said they thought they did not hit him. The agents picked up their shells and failed to report the shooting. For that violation of agency policy, Agents Ramos and Compean deserved an administrative review and some sort of job-related punishment.

Instead, due to a case of blind and bloodthirsty federal prosecutorial overkill, Agents Ramos and Compean were sentenced to 11 years and 12 years, respectively. Oh, and the smuggler was granted immunity for the 743 pounds of pot and is suing the federal government for $5 million. Crime pays, while going after criminals can land you hard time in prison…

…I should note the feds had offered the agents one year in a plea bargain, the El Paso Times reported, but the agents preferred to go to trial. “They were innocent, why should they take it?” noted T.J. Bonner, president of the agents’ union, the National Border Patrol Council. “They trust in the system of justice, and it let them down.”

If these agents were gun-happy rogue enforcers, or if they were running a criminal operation, Mr. Sutton would be right to want to put them behind bars. But these are good guys with no other marks against them. Agent Ramos was nominated for Border Patrol Agent of the year in 2005 — before the drug smuggler got his deal.

WorldNetDaily’s Les Kinsolving asked White House spokesman Tony Snow about the case. It is not a compassionate response:

Asking whether two U.S. Border Patrol agents sentenced to prison for shooting a drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks is “nonsensical,” according to a White House spokesman, even if it is something of high interest among WND readers.

Yesterday Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, asked Bush spokesman Tony Snow whether Bush would use his power of pardon to free the agents.

“That’s an unanswerable question, Les. The president is the person who is responsible for pardons. You can tell the network, which made you ask that question, that it is nonsensical,” Snow said.

I’d expect that kind of answer and condescension from Mike McCurry or Dee Dee Myers. Seems like the White House is trying to court every part of the conservative base except the vast majority who support full, unapologetic enforcement of our border and immigration laws.

Are we serious about border security for its own sake–not just as a campaign ploy (my mailbox is getting clogged with GOP press releases about the fence from congressional reps who have never e-mailed me a word before about immigration)? Here’s more evidence to the contrary.

Scrappleface’s Scott Ott is on a roll: “Bush Approves 700-Mile ‘Concept Fence’ at Border.”

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Just so I don’t end on a completely negative note, here are a few of the good things House Republicans passed to secure the border (via House Majority Whip Roy Blunt’s office):

*$708 million in emergency funding for National Guard operations along the border, including fence construction. (Emergency Supplemental Appropriations, P.L. 109-234)

*Criminalization of the construction of Border Tunnels. (Homeland Security Appropriations, P.L. 109-295)

*$1.2 billion in emergency funding for additional border fencing, vehicle barriers, technology and infrastructure. (Homeland Security Appropriations, P.L. 109-295)

*$2.27 billion for the border patrol, helping to add an additional 1,500 new Border Patrol agents, for a total of 14,800 agents. (Homeland Security Appropriations, P.L. 109-295)

*$5.2 billion for the Secure Border Initiative, a Department of Homeland Security priority that will help provide the tools and personnel needed to prevent terrorists and other criminals from crossing our border. (Homeland Security Appropriations, P.L. 109-295)

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Categories: Border Patrol, Feature Story, Homeland Security, Immigration