"You have brought this country so much. I am proud to have you as my president," wrote 14-year-old Kayla D. French in a Feb. 3 letter to President Bush. But, she said, "There is one thing I do not agree on and that is the extradition treaty we have with Mexico."
Kayla has good reason to oppose this treaty, and bring it to the president's attention.
Ratified in 1980, the treaty allows Mexico not to surrender suspected murderers wanted in the U.S. unless U.S. prosecutors waive the death penalty. In 2001, following a Mexican Supreme Court decision that declared life imprisonment unconstitutional, Mexico stopped returning suspects unless U.S. prosecutors waived life sentences, too.
This raises a U.S. constitutional issue: If killers who flee to Mexico are guaranteed reduced sentences, killers who don't flee can claim unequal justice.
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley wrote to President Bush on Jan. 9 urging him to take up the extradition issue with Mexican President Vicente Fox. Mexico's policy, Cooley wrote, "encourages an already intolerable situation where heinous crimes are committed in this country and fugitives escape justice and further endanger public safety, including that of Mexican nationals, by seeking safe haven in Mexico."
Kayla's stepfather, Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff David March, was the victim of such a crime.
Two years ago, March made a routine traffic stop. The driver turned out to be Armando Garcia, an illegal alien and convicted drug dealer who was wanted on two counts of attempted murder.
When March tried to search Garcia, the suspect allegedly shot the deputy through a gap in his bulletproof vest.
Teri March (Dave's wife and Kayla's mom) told a House subcommittee last year that Garcia then allegedly "turned and shot Dave point-blank in the head."
The suspected killer fled to Mexico, home free.
This would raise a serious issue in U.S.-Mexican relations even if Deputy March were the only American whose suspected killer found sanctuary south of the border. But he's not. "In Southern California, more than 350 violent criminals have fled to Mexico in recent years," Cooley wrote the president. "Authorities have identified more than a dozen cases," the Washington Times reported in January, "in which illegal aliens were accused of injuring or killing a U.S. law-enforcement officer but are believed to have fled to Mexico."
Already this year, President Bush has met twice with President Fox. But in their summit pronouncements, neither man has mentioned extradition.
How can the U.S and Mexico conduct serious business, requiring mutual trust, when Mexico won't even extradite suspected cop killers?