"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."-- Ayn Rand, The Nature of Government
I have no desire to get embroiled in the current tangled debate on immigration, either legal or illegal. However, I have watched with interest the intense campaign for President Bush first to intervene in the trial of two border patrol agents accused of shooting a suspected Mexican drug dealer as he fled, and then to pardon the agents for the crime after they were convicted.
CNN's Lou Dobbs has led the crusade against illegal immigration for the past several years, and seems to be in the camp that believes if you're an immigrant and you're illegal, the gloves come off. You deserve what you get. I agree with Dobbs that our borders must be secured and that Mexicans entering our country legally should be welcomed as they have been throughout our history. However, those like Osvaldo Aldrete Davila who slip across the border illegally should be stopped and sent back home -- not shot as they are trying to escape.
The agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, entered prison last week amid shrieks of injustice, to begin serving sentences of 11 and 12 years. They were convicted not only of shooting Davila, who was unarmed and running away, but of destroying evidence, covering up a crime scene and filing false reports concerning the circumstances.
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Right-wing pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle seeking political gain are clamoring for Bush to pardon Ramos and Compean for their "act of courage" and to ignore the laws they broke and the crimes they committed.. Although Congress has never bestowed a pardon on anyone convicted of a crime, in a ploy to get attention last week, presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) introduced a bill demanding that Congress, rather than Bush, pardon them.
That's not likely to happen, so the pressure remains on Bush. In an interview in El Paso last Thursday, Bush was asked if he would consider pardoning the two agents. In classic Bush bumblespeech, he non-replied, “There are standards that need to be met in law enforcement, and according to a jury of their peers, these officers violated some standards.”
Bush then stammered, “On this case, people need to take a hard look at the facts, at the evidence that the jury looked at, as well as a judge. And that’s -- I will do the same thing. Now, there’s a process for pardons,” he continued. “I mean, it’s got to work its way through a system here in government. But I just want people to take a sober look at the reality. It’s a case, as you said, it’s got a lot of emotions.”
Upon hearing this, news sites such as NewsMax.com, jumped out with, "Bush Eyes Pardon for Border Patrolmen," and announced, "President Bush on Thursday said a pardon was possible for two Border Patrol agents serving prison sentences for shooting a Mexican drug dealer as he fled and then covering up the crime..."
For NewsMax to reach such a conclusion from Bush's twisted rhetoric is not only a stretch of the imagination, it's a classic example of wishful thinking. The "standards" that the two agents "violated" were laws they broke, for which they were convicted by a jury of their peers. Ramos and Compean are criminals. According to the Justice Department, the "process for pardons" that Bush says has to "work its way through a system here in government" is that once convicted, a criminal is not even eligible for consideration to be pardoned for a period of at least five years.
The bad news is that even if Bush, who is determined to work not above the law but outside the law, decides to "eye" pardons for the two agents, he will rely on the recommendation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Given the Bush-Gonzales history of compassion for their fellow human beings, it's a slam-dunk that Ramos and Compean will remain incarcerated. The good news is they were not sentenced to death...
The only coherent statement Bush made is that the border patrol case has "got a lot of emotions." I don't pretend to understand all I know about illegal immigration, but it seems likely those emotions will get uglier and more intense if this administration continues to nod and wink at securing the border between the United States and Mexico. If there is a policy other than to give no-bid contracts to Halliburton to build a network of detention camps where immigrants will be held indefinitely, I'm not aware of it. I find it difficult to believe that these camps are cheaper -- more humane -- than simply closing the border to illegal entry.
Those who cry that the border between Mexico and the United States stretches for 2,000 miles and is all but impossible to control apparently are unaware of the new passport requirements that go into effect on January 23. Air travelers going to or from the US, Canada, Mexico, the Carribbean and Bermuda must have passports.
Those who have no problem with them coming for air travelers should know that as early as January 2008, they're coming back for the rest of us. According to just the basics, "All persons -- including U.S. citizens -- traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security."
Americans who cherish freedom would do well to stop stumbling around in the trees and forests of the illegal immigration debate and see that the Bush administration is well on its way to closing the borders of the entire nation, not only to people trying to get in, but to citizens trying to get out. For the millions who don't travel, it's probably no big deal -- they long for the tranquility of servitude and do not recognize shouts coming from the rest of us as a desperate rattling of chains.
Unfortunately, securing the homeland is a two-edged sword that the Bush administration and military establishment profiteers are holding firmly over our heads. It's time Americans realized that we are in danger of being herded into a national detention camp in which there are no pardons, and from which there is no escape.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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