Jan. 17, 2007: Former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos (left) and Jose Alonso Compean (right) turn themselves in to federal authorities.
Jan. 16, 2007: Over 40 family members, supporters of former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean at El Paso Federal Courthouse.
Congress will revisit the amount of enforcement authority Border Patrol agents are permitted following the conviction and imprisonment of two former agents who shot a Mexican drug runner, Rep. Ted Poe told FOXNews.com on Thursday.
"The American people want the border protected and they don't want the federal government getting in the way, and the federal government is getting in the way," said Poe, who was honored last month as the "Border Defender of the Year" by the California-based Friends of the Border Patrol.
Bush told FOX News on Wednesday that he will review the case when it gets to his desk, but that it has not yet gone through the usual Justice Department review.
Poe said he expects a non-classified version of the Homeland Security Department's review of the shooting investigation to be sent to him before Monday. Earlier this week, that agency's Office of the Inspector General sent the House Homeland Security Committee its report, which included both classified and non-classified, with sometimes blacked-out, pages.
Congressional members have to view these documents in a secure room and are not allowed to discuss the contents. But Poe filed a Freedom of Information Act request specifically to get a redacted version of the report that he could then make public.
"Maybe that will answer many of our questions and if not, we'll go from there," he said.
A Poe spokeswoman said once her boss gets all the documents, he will make sure that "every avenue has been pursued to see that justice has been done." He wants to read the report before taking action, she said, but could seek a hearing in the House Homeland Security Committee.
A jury found Ramos and Compean guilty of shooting at Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila — who prosecutors say was unarmed — trying to cover up the shooting, then filing a false report with their superiors about the incident. It was discovered that Aldrete, who was given immunity for his testimony, was transporting over 700 pounds of marijuana near the U.S. border in Fabens, Texas. Ramos and Compean are serving 12 and 11 years, respectively.
Prosecutors say Aldrete was hit by one bullet in the buttocks. The bullet was removed about a month after the shooting by a U.S. Army doctor. Aldrete is now suing the U.S. government for $5 million.
The agents' supporters claim they have been abandoned by the U.S. government and were just doing their jobs.
"I would just want the federal government to make it clear they support the border agents and make clear the rules of engagement, when they can stop people coming into the country," Poe said. "And maybe Congress needs to revisit the authority that we give them."
Poe and his colleagues point to several other instances where Border Agents have been tried and/or jailed for similar incidents.
For example, a 39-year-old border agent is being investigated after he said he shot one illegal immigrant earlier this month because he thought he was going to throw a rock at him while he was trying to arrest a larger group near Naco, Ariz.
Guillermo Falcon Hernandez, a 25-year-old Rocksprings, Texas, deputy sheriff, was convicted in December of depriving an illegal immigrant of civil rights when he shot at a fleeing vehicle and injured one of the nine passengers, at least seven of whom were illegal aliens being transported into the United States from Mexico. Hernandez claims the car was trying to run him over. He faces 10 years in federal prison.
"The administration, as we all know, says they're for border security but we keep having these incidents," Poe said. "There's just incident after incident where the government seems to take the side of the illegal … and it seems a bit odd to me."
These incidents have caused border agents to be hesitant on the job, he said, and that could cost them their lives.
"I've talked to several border agents … and they say the atmosphere of doing their job, of protecting the border, is very, very difficult," Poe said. "So when it comes to going the extra mile in making a quick decision, they may hesitate. The atmosphere is affecting their attitude about border security because many of them do not feel like they have the support of our government."
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said the case is a "very compelling" one for a pardon.
"I've never seen any uniformed personnel who has been treated in what I consider to be … a verdict that represented such an extreme injustice," he told FOX News on Thursday, adding that the sentences Compean and Ramos face are more than some murderers get.
"This is a war zone and these guys go into the war zone, aggressively pursuing the American interest. You're going to have a chilling effect, I think, on those wanting to go into the Border Patrol."
The transcripts of the trial have not yet been released, but prosecuting attorney Johnny Sutton told FOXNews.com earlier this week that he expects them to be released sooner rather than later.
Poe said he wants to know why the U.S. government seemed to go after the Border Agents more aggressively than they did the drug dealer.
"I want to know why the federal government chose not to just discipline the officers, give them days off — which policy provides — and prosecute a guy bringing in a million dollars worth of drugs," Poe said.
Sutton said his office did not have enough evidence to charge Aldrete.
"I am in the business of putting dope dealers like Aldrete in prison and I would much rather be having a discussion [about that] … if I can get the catch any other way, I'd be happy to put him in prison," he told FOXNews.com