It’s Mexico’s Turn to Give Back 

by Diane Dimond on August 4, 2014

This Veteran Needs to Come Home

This Veteran Needs to Come Home

Okay, I’m going to propose something radical. I’m sure it doesn’t fit into the strict confines of how our U.S. State Department conducts foreign policy but here goes …

How about we ask Mexico to do us a favor for once? Not only has that sieve of a country sat back and watched as more than 100-thousand desperate Hondurans, Guatemalans and El Salvadorans streamed through on their northward search for a safer life, they have also taken decades of generous U.S. foreign assistance without so much as a what-can-we-do-for-you?

Well, here’s what they can do for us. They can expedite the judicial process for U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, held in Mexico since the last day of March, 2014. He is due back in court in Tijuana this coming Monday but without some high powered attention being applied it’s unlikely he will be quickly released.

Caution: There's No U Turn at This Border

Caution: There’s No U Turn at This Border

The quick backstory: As has happened before with Americans who are not familiar with U.S./Mexican border crossings Sgt. Tahmooressi (pronounced: Taam-ah-REE-see) became confused by a graffiti-laden road sign south of San Diego, California. He accidentally wound up on a road from which there was no return and went straight into Mexico.

As Phil Dunn, a veteran trial lawyer who has been advising the Tahmooressi family explained to me, “Andrew asked the Mexican customs official if he could just turn around, that he had made a wrong turn.”

A border agent told Andrew to drive forward, a bit deeper into Mexico, where Tahmooressi was asked what he had in his vehicle. He honestly told them he had just moved to California and among all his worldly possessions in the car were three legally purchased and registered guns. In Mexico, however, they were illegal. “That was their probable cause to detain Andrew,” Dunn told me during a telephone conversation.

Stripped, Beaten, Charged with Gun Crimes

Stripped, Beaten, Charged with Gun Crimes

Andrew immediately called 911 – he was still that close to the border – but he was told there was nothing California authorities could do for him since he was no longer on American soil. Mexican authorities, long incensed by American gun-running into their sovereign territory, descended on Tahmooressi.

This two-tour veteran of the Afghanistan war has been to hell and back. A resident of Florida, Sgt. Tahmooressi had been in San Diego for less than a month receiving specialized treatment for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, diagnosed after his exposure to prolonged combat and a devastating IED attack on his fighting vehicle.

His mother, Jill, believes the mental confusion Andrew suffers probably contributed to him taking that wrong turn into Mexico.

Since his arrest more than four months ago Tahmooressi has surely lost any psychological ground he gained during his brief PTSD treatment.

Andrew was initially held inside one of Mexico’s most notoriously dangerous institutions, La Mesa prison in Tijuana, where he says vicious prisoners threatened to kill and rape him. Tahmooressi, 25, maintains he was beaten by guards, stripped naked and handcuffed in a standing position by both his ankles and wrists. Sleeping was next to impossible. It was like he was back in a war zone again.

Tireless Mom Keeps Fighting for Son's Release

Tireless Mom Keeps Fighting for Son’s Release

The Marine’s mother, made early contacts with U.S. media and they produced a flurry of stories about Sgt. Tahmooressi’s plight. Those stories helped win Andrew a transfer to a better prison with protective custody where he now feels safer. But media attention has faded and Mexico’s legal process to determine what to do with the Marine is painfully slow. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

So, I asked attorney Dunn, how much longer might it be before the Mexican judge hearing the case makes a decision about Andrew’s fate? “We are not in Kansas anymore,” Dunn said. He explained that the Mexican judicial system is different. Trials are not continuous, rather, there is one day of testimony and the next one may come weeks later. And what do officials in Washington say?

“They are very diplomatic,” Dunn said. “They have told us that the Secretaries of State of both nations have, ‘Met face-to-face on this issue’… But we just have no idea what will happen or when.”

Jill Tahmooressi says, “I know (Secretary John Kerry) raised the issue on May 21st. However, I would not label Sgt. Tahmooressi as an ‘Issue.’ I would label him an urgent, grave, serious concern.” He fought and nearly died for this country, she reminds us, “And now he is being held in captivity.”

Border Protests Demand Andrew's Release

Border Protests Demand Andrew’s Release

This determined mother also managed to gather the necessary number of signatures on a White House petition – which is supposed to spark an automatic response from the president, but she hasn’t heard a word. There’s no indication that Mr. Obama has even broached the subject of the Sgt. with the president of Mexico.

Look, none of this is to say. Tahmooressi shouldn’t have to face the music if he knowingly broke the laws of a foreign country. But just as it is here, Mexican law dictates that intent to commit a crime must be established. That’s what Andrew’s defense attorney hopes to focus on during Monday’s hearing – that Tahmooressi, driving in an unfamiliar state, befuddled by confusing signs and his own illness simply made a mistake.

On July 9th, the last time Jill returned from a visiting her son she says a U.S. customs agent stopped her to talk. “He said, ‘You know what? Last night a Mexican military (man) by mistake crossed our border – with his rifle – and we just sent him right back.” The discussion left her wondering why our supposed friendly neighbor to the south doesn’t return the favor.

Rep. Hunter Pressing for Andrews Return

Rep. Hunter Pressing for Andrews Return

California Congressman Duncan Hunter wondered too and asked the Department of Homeland security how often the tables have been turned.

The DHS reported back that armed Mexican military troops and Mexican law enforcement officials have crossed the United States border more than 300 times since 2004 and none were prosecuted by the U.S. Maybe it’s time we stop being so nice to Mexico.

Maybe it’s time we withhold some of the millions of dollars in aid we send to Mexico every year. Maybe someone at the State Department ought to simply say, “Hey, the guy is an American war hero. Do us a favor, let him come home.”




Diane Dimond August 4, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Twitter Pal StewartCherie writes:

“@DiDimond Why doesn’t the POTUS just call the Mexican Pres. and say either give our guy back or all aid stops.”

Diane Dimond August 4, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Reader Joe Nuccio writes:

“Good article Diane, now if we can put some pressure on our “do nothing” but vacation president. I am writing to Mr McCain next.”

Joe Nuccio Sun City West Az.

Diane Dimond August 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Sally Meeks writes:

“Dear Diane:
I would hope by now that you have been inundated with emails regarding the incarceration of Andrew Tahmoressi, whom I read about in your article in the Albuquerque Journal of August 2, 2014. It is a travesty that he has been in prison for four months for a wrong turn into Mexico. I know that can easily happen if one is not familiar with the border, having lived in El Paso for two years.

Can’t something be done using social media to get the President or someone high up in the State Department to resolve ASAP this incredibly sad situation. Where is justice when a person who served his country is locked up in a Mexican prison, suffering from the effects of war and now suffering from incarceration, just because he unintentionally crossed the border. I realize having guns in the car increases the seriousness of this situation, but resolution in his favor is not impossible.

If the United States can rescue Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban, we can “rescue” Andrew Tahmoressi from the Mexican authorities!

Thank you for your article and especially for your thoughts in the final paragraph.”


Sally Meeks

Diane Dimond August 4, 2014 at 10:22 pm

ABQ Journal Reader Ms Dimond:

Thanks for this article. I read it in Saturday’s ‘Albuquerque Journal’.
You wrote, ‘just as it does here, Mexican law dictates that intent to commit a crime must be established.’ This is wrong. Good intentions may mitigate punishment if the judge or jury so inclines; we have multiple charges for killing which vary by intention; we exculpate the mentally-incapacitated – but otherwise prosecution does not have to show intent.
Thanks for your attention.”

russell bell

Diane Dimond August 5, 2014 at 12:15 am

Facebook Friend Jack West writes:

“I don’t think there is one politician who would call for de-funding any of our allies, or nations of questionable repute, regardless of what they were to do. Why? Everyone of our elected officials is a complete and total wimp, and afraid if they make such a BOLD proposal, they’ll lose an election, and as we all know, in today’s American politics, winning an election is the only thing that counts. Really really sad is the state of America!”

Diane Dimond August 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Reader Gordon Hennessy writes:

“Ms. Dimond, thank you for the excellent article on the issue of Sergeant Tahmooressi and his trauma of being held in a Mexican Jail. This is simply unacceptable. Why our administration has not resolved this issue is incomprehensible to me. Diplomatic pressure must be applied – effectively – to the Mexican government to have this man released to U.S. officials. As a former Army officer, this is appalling and I am outraged. If he was a known criminal perhaps it would be a different situation, but he very clearly is not a criminal.

Contrast Sergeant Tahmooressi’s situation to that of Sergeant Bo Bergdahl. Sergeant Bergdahl, abandoned his post in Afghanistan and, in my opinion, is a deserter in wartime.

With a great deal of fanfare and PR, the President traded Sergeant Bergdahl for five known and very dangerous terrorists. At this point, apparently little has been done in his case and the Army is still “investigating” the circumstances. I believe that there is sufficient evidence to convene a Courts Martial and let the truth be obtained to determine his guilt or innocence.

This is a serious injustice in the case of Sergeant Tahmooressi and I applaud you for making his case in your column. I hope it accomplishes some good and helps getting this man out of Mexico and back in the United States where he belongs. ”

Gordon Hennessy

Diane Dimond August 6, 2014 at 10:20 am

ABQ Journal Reader Suelawrie writes:

“I understand this man was returned to prison. Where can an average citizen make a complaint on this issue?. I live in New Mexico, where we have an abundance of illegals who got into our country deliberately and are not treated in this manner. I think the US should withhold any support for Mexico pending release of this American veteran.. ..”

Diane Dimond August 6, 2014 at 10:22 am

Dear SueLawrie,

Yes, after Monday’s hearing the Sgt continued to be held in prison.

Now, good for you for wanting to get involved!

I would call or write your U.S. Congress person – and your US Senator. Take your complaint to Washington as state-level officials can’t really do much. (You can find e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers of your representatives just by Googling their names and add the phrase “phone number”)

If only some big-wigs in Washington would pick up the phone and make some noise I think Mexico would speed up the process and send this soldier home where he can get the treatment he needs!

Thanks for caring. ~ DD

Diane Dimond August 6, 2014 at 11:11 am

Facebook Friend Marilyn Whitelaw writes:

“When are we going to stop pandering to these ungrateful good for nothing countries ???”

fishfry August 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Surely you understand that no sitting president can ever openly interfere in an ongoing criminal trial in a foreign country. It’s a basic principal of ongoing diplomacy. After the verdict has been rendered, then the State department can step in.

Bush had a virtually identical case in 2008 when a US soldier accidentally drove into Mexico with his guns and got arrested. Bush didn’t lift a finger; nor could he, for the reason I gave.

In any event, it’s been argued that Mexico already did us a favor. They got this combat vet carrying three loaded guns and 457 rounds of ammo off the road before he hurt someone. He’d already pulled a gun on his sister’s boyfriend at a picnic last year.

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