In a promotion for its lobbying extravaganza on Capitol Hill next month, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) asserts that lawmakers must “restore integrity to our immigration system.”
Apparently, such integrity does not preclude the use of deadly force against an unarmed suspect. A featured speaker at next month’s Lobby Days will be Ignacio “Nacho” Ramos, one of two former border patrol agents convicted of multiple felony charges in connection with the 2005 shooting of a drug smuggler who was fleeing from them. Ramos is scheduled to speak on Sept. 16 as part of FAIR’s annual three-day lobbying campaign that brings anti-immigrant activists to the Capitol to meet with lawmakers. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR a hate group because of its ties to white supremacists.
Ramos was sentenced in 2006 to 11 years in prison for his role in shooting the undocumented immigrant, but was freed earlier this year after President George Bush granted clemency to him and to former border patrol agent Jose Compean, who was also involved in the shooting. Although Bush commuted their sentences, he did not pardon them, so they remain convicted felons. Nearly all their convictions were upheld last year by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that “[t]he trial of the case was conducted fairly and without reversible error.”
FAIR states on its website that Ramos “will share his experience and story about the arrest of a drug dealer that caused he [sic] and another Border Patrol Agent to be jailed for years.” In fact, no arrest ever took place. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, Ramos and Compean were patrolling along the border on the afternoon of Feb. 17, 2005, when a van driver, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, failed to obey Ramos’s attempt to pull him over. Instead, he jumped out of the van and fled in the direction of Mexico. As he climbed out of a steep ditch, Compean confronted him with a drawn shotgun and yelled, “Stop, stop you Mexican shit.” Aldrete-Davila tried to surrender and had no weapon in his hands, but instead of making an arrest, Compean swung at him with the butt of his shotgun. After Compean missed, Aldrete-Davila again ran toward Mexico. Compean then fired at Aldrete-Davila at least 14 times. Ramos fired once, hitting Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks. Afterward, they made no effort to arrest Aldrete-Davila, concealed evidence, and failed to report the shooting. During the incident, neither agent knew that the van Aldrete-Davila was driving contained marijuana or that the driver was in the United States illegally. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton said in a statement that “when law enforcement officers use their badge as a shield for carrying out crimes and then engage in a cover up, we cannot look the other way. Agents Compean and Ramos shot an unarmed, fleeing suspect in the back and lied about it.”
That hasn’t stopped Ramos and Compean from becoming celebrities of sorts in nativist circles. During a press conference at last year’s Lobby Days, many activists held signs that commanded, “Free Ramos and Compean.” Ramos’s wife, Monica, and his father-in-law looked on from the crowd; Monica Ramos appeared on Lou Dobbs’ show that evening during “Hold Their Feet to the Fire,” a talk-radio blitz held in conjunction with Lobby Days. Many speakers at the press conference expressed support for the former border patrol agents, including FAIR president Dan Stein, who said anyone who criticizes FAIR is also slinging mud at “people whose husbands are in jail for trying to defend our borders and do the right thing.” He added: “Doing the right thing is doing what we’re all about. Free Ramos and Compean.”