According to data supplied to Congress by the Department of Homeland Security, armed Mexican military and police units regularly cross the US border, and no personnel are charged with a criminal offense, while US Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi languishes in a Mexican jail for carrying firearms to the border. The Marine reservist Tahmooressi has been jailed in Tijuana, Mexico since March 31 for having three registered firearms among his possessions at a border checkpoint. He laments that he accidentally reached a border crossing after passing his highway exit for San Ysidro, California.
Tahmooressi’s cause has been championed by US Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Cal.), who has sought assistance from the State Department to secure the Marine’s release. Hunter also requested information from the Department of Homeland Security regarding Mexican activities at the border. The written response from the Department reveals that over 500 Mexican armed forces personnel and police have crossed the US border in the past decade. A number of the incursions caused confrontations with US personnel. Department statistics indicate that 131 of the Mexican nationals were detained.
As US Marine Tahmooressi sits in a Mexican jail, his family has been fighting a difficult battle to secure Mexican legal counsel to assist with contesting his charges. Tahmooressi’s mother, Jill, has fired two attorneys in her quest to free her son. According to the 25-year-old veteran of two tours of duty in Afghanistan, he was carrying all his possessions in his truck when he missed his exit for San Ysidro. He came upon a border crossing and was waived into a checkpoint and said he had no desire to actually venture into Mexico. He said he told Mexican personnel about the firearms in his possession and was detained. The weapons charges initiated against the young Marine carry a potential six to 21 year sentence.
The State Department has been mum about its efforts to obtain Tahmooressi’s release, citing privacy concerns for the jailed Marine. The Afghanistan veteran’s family has posted a facebook page to rally support and those pushing for his release have also begun a twitter campaign under the hashtage BringBackOurMarine. Several congressmen have shown their support for Tahmooressi by posting their images on the twitter feed holding signs with BringBackOurMarine emblazoned on placards. Further, lawmakers are also beginning to question why President Obama would cut loose five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Bowe Bergdahl while seemingly allowing Tahmooressi to remain in a Mexican prison.
Critics of Tahmoressi’s supporters assert that the young reservist ventured into Mexico as a private citizen and US government efforts for his release should not be the same as those for active military personnel on foreign soil in furtherance of their official duties. Nevertheless, the possible desertion by Bergdahl of his post leads many to believe he should not have been traded for the detainees.
As Marine Sgt.Tahmooressi’s jail ordeal has continued, the efforts of Congressman Hunter have begun to shed some light on actions of armed Mexican personnel regularly crossing the US border. Although the Marine was only on Mexican soil in his private capacity, many are rallying to obtain US government support for his release.
By William Costolo