Better Late Than Never: Bush Frees Compean and Ramos

Happily, George W. Bush has commuted the long prison sentences of two former--and hopefully future--Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. It would have been nice if Bush had done this two years ago, but "late" is better than "never."

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The two lawmen have been wrongly imprisoned since 2007 as a result of a murky case in which they were convicted of shooting and wounding a fugitive drug dealer fleeing arrest. Interestingly, the drug trafficker, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was given immunity for testifying against Compean and Ramos, hassince been re-arrested and convictedon yet another drug-trafficking charge.

Disturbingly, the prosecution of Compean and Ramos seems to have been part of a larger pattern of excessively zealous prosecutorial effortsby publicity-seeking US Attorneys, out to score headlines by harassing law enforcement officials. One unfortunate result has been repeated incidents in which Border Patrol agents have been reluctant to use force to protect themselves and the border, because they fear a Compean and Ramos-like fate.

Now President-elect Barack Obama, and his choice for Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, have a chance to begin afresh on border security/homeland security issues. Do we want the border to be secure, or not? Do we want the homeland to be maximally protected, or not? And will we enforce our laws against illegal entry, or not? Obama has supported building a border fence, and as for Napolitano, back in 2005, when she was governor of Arizona, she declared a "state of emergency"over out-of-control illegal immigration, at a time when Washington was merely dithering.

Let's hope that Obama and Napolitano find the right answers to border-security questions, but in the meantime, let's celebrate the release of Compean and Ramos.