Mexico Keeps Marine Behind Bars, Lawmakers Lash Out at 'Sheer Indifference' of White House
Supporters of reserve Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi had hoped that Wednesday's closed evidentiary hearing would result in the judge sending him back to the United States, but the Mexican ordered that he be returned to prison until an Aug. 4 hearing.
Tahmooressi, who served two combat tours in Afghanistan, was arrested at the San Ysidro border crossing the night of March 31 and is currently being held in the El Hongo II prison in Tecate, Mexico, for bringing guns into the country. Tahmooressi reportedly had a rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .45-caliber pistol and more than 400 rounds of ammunition in his truck.
Tahmooressi says he crossed the border by accident due to confusing signs that caused him to miss the last exit in the U.S. His family says he needs to be returned to the States to receive treatment for PTSD.
Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) staff met with Tahmooressi's mother last week. “I am very dismayed by the judicial order to continue detaining Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi in Mexico. Sgt. Tahmooressi has been languishing in a Mexican prison long enough," Rubio said in a statement this morning.
“It’s time for the Obama administration to wake up and advocate for his return home. The Obama administration’s virtual silence and inaction on Sgt. Tahmooressi’s case has been beyond troubling," Rubio continued. "It’s sheer indifference. The Obama administration needs to step up our diplomatic efforts to bring this Marine home.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and the chairman of the panel’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), traveled across the border late last month to visit with Tahmooressi.
“While I am disappointed that Wednesday’s evidentiary hearing did not result in Sgt. Tahmooressi’s immediate release, I am hopeful that his case will be dealt with in a fair and timely manner. It must," Royce said.
The chairman, who has appealed directly to Mexico for the Marine's release, said his committee will "continue to follow this case closely, and I will continue appealing to the government of Mexico for Andrew’s immediate release so that he can begin treatment for his combat-related PTSD."
"As I said when I visited him in jail, Andrew is an American hero who served his country valiantly on the battlefields of Afghanistan, and needs to be home in the United States with his family.”
Salmon said he was "disappointed that yesterday’s hearing did not result in Andrew's immediate release," but remains "hopeful that Andrew's case will be resolved fairly and expeditiously."
"As I said to Andrew when we met at the prison in Mexico, I will not rest until he is back home safely with his family and receiving the treatment he needs for PTSD," Salmon said. "Andrew is an American hero and he needs to be home."
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) brought up Tahmooressi's case yesterday at a hearing on border security at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"One thing we've learned is Mexico does a pretty good job securing its northern border as -- as -- as Marine Sergeant Tahmooressi out... If he's not released, what is the State Department and what is the Department of Justice going to do? What is President Obama going to do to secure Sergeant Tahmooressi's release?" Johnson asked Francisco Palmieri, deputy assistant secretary for the Caribbean and Central America in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
"I know that the State Department has facilitated visits for him with his attorneys, with his family," Palmieri replied. "We will continue to provide the full range of American citizen services that we would provide to any and every American detained in a similar situation."
"Is the State Department, is President Obama as outraged as I think most Americans are by the Mexican government's mistreatment of Sergeant Tahmooressi? I mean, I've seen the videos. I've seen how easy it was for him to, you know, accidentally get into that lane. This is outrageous. He's been held for over 100 days," Johnson continued. "Are we going to show that time of -- you know, demonstrate that kind of outrage and demand his return if he's not returned today?"
Interstate 5 south takes you directly into the border checkpoint lanes unless you take the last exit in the U.S. to Camino de la Plaza, an area with duty-free shops and parking lots where visitors to Tijuana often park and walk across the border. Signs along I-5 warn that guns are illegal in Mexico, and yellow signage warns of the last exit to remain in the U.S.
"I know that my colleagues at the American embassy in Mexico City, in Tijuana and in Washington are working vigorously on this case to expedite a speedy resolution to it as we can," Palmieri said.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said yesterday that she thinks "the Mexican government wants to get out of this situation."
"They realize that they picked the wrong fight with this wonderful hero, this war hero who deserves to be a ride back home, just like the Mexican authorities when they take a wrong turn, and they end up in U.S. borders. We give them a ride home," Ros-Lehtinen told Fox. "So, I think that they will maybe say, I mean, who knows, but they'll say one more month to serve and then it's out of the limelight. They'll let him come."