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Is There Room for Little Guy Legislation?

January 1, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

OpenCongress turns its attention today to a great tip we received from Adrian Rodriguez.

Until getting his brief note and checking out the MySpace link he sent us, I had never noticed the pending bill H.R. 4038, entitled “For the relief of Adrian Rodriguez.” Intrigued, I did a little research and found out that Rodriguez spent some time in a Tijuana prison in 2003 after he bought a car at a U.S. Customs auction that had 33-pounds or marijuana stashed in it. After some publicity and political pressure, Rodriguez was eventually proven innocent (under Mexican law the accused are considered guilty until proven innocent) and released from prison, but the bill seeks to take one last step in what Rodriguez calls his “quest for justice.” It directs the Secretary of the Treasury to pay him an appropriate amount “for costs related to and damages arising from his arrest, prosecution, and incarceration.”

The car Rodriguez bought bought originally came into the possession of Customs when border agents seized it after finding marijuana hidden in the bumper and dashboard. The Customs agents removed that Marijuana before selling the car to Rodriguez, but missed a 33-pounds of it that was hidden in a metal box affixed to the bottom of the car. That stash was found by a mechanic when Rodriguez brought his car across the border to Tijuana to have some work done it.

Here’s part of the blurb about the bill Rodriguez has on his MySpace page asking for people to help him get the bill passed:

>These bills will be ignored unless there is support and interest. Will you please write a letter to congress in support of our cause and request the bill to be looked at and approved. We are hopeful that by these bills being approved, the government agencies, involved in searching cars with contraband, will take there job more seriously. Today, post 9/11, security plays a major part of our lives. If there are no consequences for the negligence that the border protection agencies have shown, I find it difficult to believe that the proper structures and importance will be given to the important task of searching cars with contraband. If there are no consequences, governmental arrogances and injustice will prevail.
>
>We live in the most wonderful country, where we, the people, have a voice and power to bring about positive chances in our government. We are only powerful if we are aware of the issues and take action, letting our representatives know what we support.

The part of his story that really gets me is that Rodriguez called the police himself, thinking it was the right thing to do after finding the drugs. His mechanic in Tijuana wanted to just get rid of the pot; Rodriguez wanted to act responsibly.

The bill has been introduced by San Diego Rep. Bob Filner — pictured above with Rodriguez — and referred to the House Judiciary Committee, but with all the issues on Congress’s plate, Rodriguez is probably right about its prospects of being approved. If you want to help him finalize his quest for justice, you can help by spreading the word and putting on the political pressure — write a blog post, send a letter to the editor and contact your member of Congress to tell them you’ve notice the bill and want it acted on.

By the way, if there’s something you want highlighted on this blog, send us a tip and we’ll most likely put it up.

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