Jailed Ex-Border Agents' Wives Recount Hardships

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT


(CNSNews.com) - Monica Ramos is trying to hold on to her home while working as an administrative assistant and raising three boys -- ages 14, 9 and 7 -- who are having trouble adjusting to their father's enforced absence.

Patty Compean's three children are also trying to adjust to living without their father since January. Her 12-year-old daughter is no longer making the honor roll at school, while her 3-year-old son has become more anxious, and she's struggling to raise a 7-month-old baby. Moreover, the family had to sell their house to pay for legal expenses.

The two Texan families have been disrupted by the jailing of their husbands and fathers, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, in January. The two, former U.S. Border Patrol agents, are serving sentences of 11 and 12 years respectively for shooting a Mexican national who was smuggling drugs across the Texas border.

The case sparked national outrage not only because it was brought in the first place, but because of the tenacity with which a federal prosecutor pursued it. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas went to Mexico to offer an immunity deal to the Mexican, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, in return for his testimony against the pair.

The former agents' wives were in Washington Tuesday as part of a four-day event sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which involves 35 radio hosts broadcasting their programs from the nation's capital, calling for tougher border enforcement and opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"[My husband] was very involved in the boys' sports," Mrs. Ramos told Cybercast News Service. "Our son not only lost a father, he lost a [little league baseball] coach. His entire team lost a coach."

Their oldest son, meanwhile, transferred to another middle school to avoid the heckling from some of his classmates, she said.

Ramos and Compean are allowed one 15-minute phone call home each month, and those minutes have to be divided among all the family members, their wives said.

Mrs. Ramos has visited her husband three times at a federal prison in Mississippi, after Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) office, she said, helped make it possible by pressuring the Bureau of Prisons.

However, Mrs. Compean said she hasn't seen her husband since he began his sentence in Ohio. She believed, however, that he was holding up well, receiving cards and letters of support daily from people he has never met.

"He's very strong and very quiet," Mrs. Compean told Cybercast News Service. "He can take it. He writes letters, reads books and reads the Bible. He knows he's innocent, and he's ready to fight."

The two men are both being held in isolation from other prisoners for their own safety and spend 23 hours each day in a six-foot by 12-foot cell, Mrs. Ramos said. Her husband was initially held among the general prison population but was moved after being assaulted by four other inmates.

Lawyers for Ramos and Compean will file appeal papers on May 3, and the government has 15 days to respond. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals may make a decision by year's end.

Sutton, the prosecutor, said the case was about upholding the rule of law, because the drug smuggler had been unarmed. He also noted that the agents tried to cover up their crime after the shooting by picking up the shells and didn't report it to their supervisors.

Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee, is leading an investigation into the matter.

In the House, nearly 100 Republicans have put their names to a resolution calling for a congressional pardon.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who introduced the resolution, told Cybercast News Service Tuesday he hopes to get 150 co-sponsors for the bill in order to push forward a hearing and a vote.

President Bush said in January he would consider a pardon once he reviews the facts but has not publicly addressed the issue since then, despite a growing chorus of Republican demands.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) even warned of impeachment talk on Capitol Hill if one of the agents is killed in prison.

Hunter was among members of Congress who attended a press conference outside the Capitol Tuesday that included speeches from the imprisoned agents' wives.

"I'm the pillar of the family, the wife and the husband, the dad and mom," Mrs. Compean said during the press conference and rally. "I know I'm not alone. I have supporters and prayers and well wishers. We have to stick together and fight this."

"I never imagined I would be here to be the voice of my husband," an emotional Mrs. Ramos told the crowd.

She recalled her husband's stance in his job: "Don't ever second-guess yourselves when you have to make a split-second decision. Make sure you go home to your family."

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, criticized comprehensive immigration reform proposals, backed by the president, which call for a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for those already here.

"Every illegal immigrant is an insult to legal immigrants," Bilbray said. "Common decency says you don't reward those breaking the laws and punish people who play by the rules."

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