San Diego- Old Glory waving in the wind at Camp Vigilance was the backdrop for Ignacio “Nacho” Ramos Jr.’s first interview since his sentence was commuted by former President Bush.
“It’s a great feeling despite everything that has happened,” Romos said. “I still love my country and everything it represents.”
The July 4th celebration in Boulevard, CA 60 miles east of San Diego, certainly gave the Ramos family a heroes welcome. And like any true patriot, Ramos posed for pictures shook a lot of hands and hugged his admirers.
“This support has taken me by surprise. My wife tried to explain what it was like to be out there with the well wishers, but until today I didn’t really know.”
This real-world drama began in 2005 where the two border patrol agents Romos and Jose Compean were serving the nation in the southern war-zone border. Each year approximately 70-80 percent of the illicit drugs enter the U.S. through the dangerous southern border which has seen violence accelerate over the past few years.
This drama turned into a horror story of injustices for the border patrol agents. Their convictions for wounding a known-Mexican drug dealer trying to peddle hundreds of pounds of marijuana, led a nation straight to the White House; President Bush commuted their sentences as the he left office this year.
Why the Texas D.A.s office would prosecute the border patrol agents for doing their job is anyone’s guess, however, Romos refuses to let a few bad apples change his love for this country.
“There was always more to the case than what was being told,” Ramos said. “It wasn’t my country that prosecuted me; my fellow countrymen were on my side throughout the trial.”
Ramos spoke quietly about his dark days behind bars and fervently about the many supporters especially his wife who got him through those dark days.
For two long years Ramos sat in jail with the truth on his side. “I received letters from all 50 states and other countries around the world. That along with my family is what kept me going.”
In the end, President Bush did commute both Ramos and Compeon’s sentences even if it did come at the eleventh hour. When ask why it took so long for the president to see the error of the court’s ways, Ramos sighs.
After a long pause he said, “I guess he (President Bush) was put in a difficult position. I don’t know if it was politics, friendship or all combined, I thank him for making the right choice in the end. I thank him I really do; he let me come home to my family and he didn’t have to.”
Even though Ramos was behind bars for two years, causing undue stress on his family, he feels the former president pulled through for his family.
Moving forward Ramos looks to clearing his name. He and his family have decided to request a new trial and reverse the conviction. However, a new trial comes with more risks. There is always the chance that the government will try to file additional charges against Ramos.
The mere thought of more prison time would be enough to deter the average person, but not the Ramos family. His wife, Monica says, “Things could be difficult again, but our main goal is to vacate the charges. We are optimistic that the new developments we have will end up in our favor.”
This type of courage is typical for the Ramos family who remains grateful and always wants to seek the truth. This doesn’t mean Ramos and his family aren’t worried.
His father-in-law Joe Loya has been by his daughter’s family throughout. “I am a proud American. I trace my Texas roots back to the 1850s. He was born here in the 1850’s.” Loya is no stranger to law enforcement; his brother served 33 years in the service and retired a Colonel.
“Let me tell you something, 50 years ago the illegals who came across the border were hard workers. Today they are criminals. My family was nearly ruined by these illegals,” Loya angrily said. “I’m a patriot and don’t like to be referred to as having Mexican roots, I’m a law abiding Hispanic-American. This is my country, love it or leave it.”
The Ramos family is hoping that this time the law will be on their side.
The government prosecutors have changed the original charges several times. “They superseded the indictments three times and kept adding charges in order to break us and force us into a plea agreement. It makes me wonder what they might try to add now,” Ramos said.
The Texas indictments came from promiscuous prosecutors who over-zealously interpreted the law into the criminal-illegal alien’s favor, according to the Ramos family.
Ramos points out that the government has unlimited resources on their side, however, he says, “We have the truth on our side.”
Before the trial, Ramos and Compeon were offered an 18-month plea deal to keep them silent, but Ramos decided to take his chances in court- a decision that cost him two years of his life behind bars.
Why go back and fight at another trial? “I want my name back and despite all of this I still want to be a border patrol agent,” he explained.
Ramos father-in-law Loya often wonders “when everyone in this country is going to wake up to the fact that America is being over-run by illegal immigration, it’s not right- period.”
In the meantime the U.S. Border Patrol headquarters have send out a memo explaining to all agents that they are not to talk to Ramos and Compeon because they are convicted felons. This hasn’t stopped a few brave agents who have expressed their support.
“They have told me that I would hate it (being an agent) now, the border agents have been hamstrung with new rules,” Ramos said.
The end it will be bittersweet, “I have to be vindicated so I can go back to supporting my family and if I leave this time it will be on my terms.”
Since being released from prison the Ramos family has had to rely on friends and family to get by. Life in El Paso was tough on the family and as a result the Ramos family has moved to the Houston area.
Simply saying thank you isn’t enough for the many people who helped the Ramos family out. This is when Ramos gets emotional “thank you is too simple. I wish I could just give everyone a big hug.”
Ever optimistic, Ramos says he is grateful and looks forward to taking care of his family again.
“All I can do is take one day at a time, with all the ups and downs. We look forward to each new day trying to stay positive. My three boys and wife are my guiding lights,” Ramos concludes.
And, yes, the American flag has new meaning – “freedom at last.”
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