With less than 24 hours left in his presidency, George W. Bush at last granted clemency to two former Border Patrol agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. The two had received lengthy prison sentences after being convicted of shooting a fleeing Mexican drug dealer.
Clemency for the two former agents was a major goal of USBC and attracted considerable support among all advocates of tougher border security, who had repeatedly argued that the agents were just doing their jobs.
A large number of senators and representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, had supported clemency for the two men. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2007 emphasized that the drug dealer had crossed the United States-Mexican border illegally and drove a van containing 743 pounds of marijuana worth almost $1 million.
The commutation granted by President Bush means the prison sentences of Ramos and Compean, both from El Paso, Texas, will expire on March 20, but leaves intact the three years of post-imprisonment probation and fines of $2,000 each. Both had been in prison since early 2007. Much of that time was spent in solitary confinement, which was said necessary to protect the former law enforcement agents from other inmates.
Bush commuted the sentences before he received a recommendation from the Justice Department's pardon attorney. "The Office of the Pardon Attorney was still in the process of reviewing the clemency requests from Compean and Ramos at the time these commutations were granted," a Justice official says.
In fact, the Justice Department was still reviewing the applications and had not made a recommendation to the White House.