Sunday, January 25, 2009
By: Enrique Vasquez
Reposted to IPR by Paulie
A farewell gift to fascist, anti-immigrant forces
In one of his final acts as president, George W. Bush commuted the sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents in prison for the February 2005 shooting of an unarmed Mexican immigrant. The two men tried to cover up the incident and lied in their testimony.
José Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos fired a combined 15 shots at Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila following a foot pursuit. Wounded, Aldrete-Davila managed to escape across the Rio Grande. Fully aware of what they had done, Ramos and Compean disposed of the shell casings in an attempt to conceal what had happened.
When the story surfaced, Ramos and Compean were charged with seven and nine counts, respectively. Their testimonies were full of contradictions, and eventually they were found guilty on all counts except one. Each was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, but now they will be released within two months after serving only 14 months in total.
The former agents from El Paso, Texas, have been a cause célèbre among racist, anti-immigrant groups such as the Minutemen Project, as well as right-wing politicians and bigots. Rather than condemning their criminal behavior, the right wing turned the two men into martyrs. Sympathizers were featured on talk shows repeatedly stating that the men were “just doing their jobs.” (Associated Press, Jan. 19)
Among their highest profile defenders was right-wing CNN anchor Lou Dobbs. After getting hold of the story, Dobbs dedicated countless hours of his unabashedly anti-immigrant “Lou Dobbs Tonight” to popularize the lies peddled by the apologists for Ramos and Compean. (Salon.com, Sept. 7, 2007)
The Minutemen Project also began rallying support for the two shooters. Minutemen rallies frequently featured placards with slogans calling for “justice” for Ramos and Compean. The Minutemen are primarily known for their armed, vigilante-style persecution of immigrants at the border.
A common thread runs through the cast of characters that backed Ramos and Compean: virulent racism. Those were the forces that aggressively pushed for pardons for the two men. The fact that their cries have been heard reveal much about government and the justice system under capitalism.
Capitalist politicians and the corporate media continuously demonize and dehumanize immigrants, turning them into second-class citizens whose labor can be easily super-exploited. Under their reactionary discourse, undocumented immigrants are, by definition, criminals. Any use of force against them by the border patrol is reducible to “law enforcement agents just doing their job”—even if that means shooting an unarmed man in the back.
It should come as no surprise that the indictment, much less conviction, of a border patrol agent, police officer or any other functionary of the state is the exception and not the rule. The exploitative relationship between the owners of capital and the working class would be short lived if the state was not free to use violence as a means of oppression. This is particularly true when it comes to the most oppressed workers, including immigrants and people of color. The commuting of Ramos’s and Compean’s sentences may be utterly repulsive, but it is not shocking.
There is no shortage of prisoners who should not spend another single day behind bars: Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, the Cuban Five, and countless others. Ramos and Compean do not belong in those ranks.