What do you think? Add your comments here.

EL PASO -- A candidate for assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement urged President Bush in an open letter to pardon ex-Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.

Miguel Contreras, a retired federal investigative official, said he wrote the letter in hope the president will grant the two El Pasoans a pardon or reduce their sentences.

"I reviewed everything I could find related to their cases, and based on my extensive experience, Compean and Ramos should be released and reinstated to their former jobs," said Contreras, who lives in Yuma, Ariz., and retired as a federal supervisory criminal investigator. "I have not received a response."

Before retiring, Contreras, a security consultant, worked for 30 years for various law enforcement agencies and departments, including ICE, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team recently notified Contreras he is being considered for a high-level job with ICE, and his first act after learning that was the case, he wrote the letter for the ex-Border Patrol agents.

Compean and Ramos were convicted in 2006 of civil-rights violations after shooting at a fleeing drug smuggler, Osvaldo Alderete Davila,

near Fabens in 2005, and covering it up. Ramos was sentenced to 11 years, and Compean to 12 years, mainly because of a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence on the federal charge of discharge of a firearm in commission of crime.

After both agents were tried, Alderete, the Mexican citizen they shot at, was caught smuggling marijuana in a separate incident, and was tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"I don't know Miguel Contreras, but I am thankful, because every little bit helps," said Joe Loya, Ramos' father-in-law. "We understand more pardons and commutations are coming down Jan. 15, and we are praying Compean and Ramos are included.

"They never lied about anything, and they never shot (Alderete) in the buttocks as some media had reported. The Army surgeon who testified at the trial said Alderete was shot at such an angle that showed he had to be turning around and standing as if he were pointing something at the agents."

During his two terms, Bush has granted 190 pardons and nine commutations, 31 of them were for people convicted of drug violations, including drug smuggling. He has until Jan. 20 to issue pardons and commutations.

Loya said the agents and their families have not stopped advocating for a change in their prison sentences.

The two former agents have received widespread support from the public, including from organizations like Friends of the Border Patrol and Grassfire.org, a grassroots group that uses the Internet to mobilize citizens. The online group has turned over to the White House more than 420,000 petitions for Ramos and Compean.

If Bush's term expires without his acting on the case, then it's possible the Obama administration might consider it. Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, was among the more than 100 U.S. lawmakers who signed House Resolution 563 in support of a congressional pardon for the two men; the entire House has not voted on the proposal.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.