Federal Agents 0: Drug Smuggler 1

Is America serious about illegal immigration? Two US Border Patrol agents have been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences while the drug smuggler they were apprehending was given immunity for his testimony against them.

Illegal immigration has been in the forefront of our news media for some time. Particularly during an election year, Americans of various political stripes have expressed concern on the issue. FedSmith readers say the issue of illegal immigration is one of the major issues that impact our country.

One issue that sometimes makes the news is when an illegal comes back into our country and commits a serious crime. When that happens, we wonder why we can’t stop the interminable march across our border and why we cannot stop criminals and terrorists from entering our country and harming those that are living a peaceful, honest life in America. For an example of a case in which a federal employee was subject to discipline for not being more diligent in stopping someone with a criminal record from entering the country, see “Actions and Decisions Have Consequences.

With this background, a recent case received some attention in the national media but probably should have received more and sparked a public outrage during this election season.

The front line on the Mexican-American border is the US Border Patrol. For the past 75 years, the mission of this agency is to detect and prevent the illegal entry of aliens into the United States.

One report describes the incident as follows: ” Ramos and Compean (Border Patrol agents) fired their weapons while pursuing a Mexican national, Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, while he was trying to smuggle nearly 800 pounds of marijuana into the United States on Feb. 17, 2005. Aldrete-Davila sustained a bullet wound to the buttocks but was able to escape the agents. He later returned to testify against them at trial after being sought out in Mexico by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and treated for his wound at a U.S. military hospital.”

The agents were conviced of various charges including assault with a deadly weapon; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence; and a civil rights violation. They also were convicted of obstruction of justice for not reporting that their weapons had been fired. The drug smuggler was given immunity in return for his testimony against the agents.

Their case has generated at least some interest in Congress. Several Congressman are asking the Justice Department to review the federal law used to convict two Border Patrol agents of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler. (See the letter on this issue from one Congressman.) The federal statute at issue makes it illegal to discharge a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Conviction under the statute carries a minimum 10-year sentence in federal prison.

The union that represents the Border Patrol agents has posted an interesting question on its web site:

When Smugglers Try to Run You Over With a Vehicle, you are supposed to:

A. Shoot at them;

B. Chase them;

C. Wave at them and say “Bienvenidos a Los Estados Unidos”;

D. Throw a pamphlet at them on how to apply for Amnestia;

E. Offer them food, water, medical care, and counseling at taxpayer expense;

F. Beg them not to report you to OIG and/or the U.S. Attorney’s office for using an expletive when you dive for cover; or

G. Let them go.

The correct answers, according to the Border Patrol Council Local 2544, are C through G.

There are undoubtedly a host of legal and social issues involved with the case. In all likelihood, mistakes were made by the agents.

One question the federal government has to answer and decide is whether the country is serious about stopping the flow of illegals into the country. The extreme punishment of these federal employees who were at work doing a dangerous job when the incident occurred will not help America in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. It has to put doubts into the minds of those charged with protecting our borders if the country is serious about the mission of the agency and the real priorities of our legal system.

In any event, the two agents are free on bail until January. The drug smuggler who testified against America’s agents was given immunity from prosecution in return for his cooperation in sending the the agents to jail who were interfering with his drug smuggling operation.

If there is any doubt about the priority of our system in solving today’s legal and social issues, this case will probably serve as an answer for some. Most of us can only hope that the federal employees working along our borders know that most Americans appreciate their efforts despite the efforts of some in the legal hierarchy to prove otherwise.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47