The fate of Andrew Tahmooressi, a Marine reservist who was arrested in Mexico for allegedly trying to smuggle guns into the country, continues to be an enigma. It’s unclear if he will be deported back to the U.S. or end up serving jail time in Mexico.
In recent days, both U.S. government officials and citizens have spoken out in favor of Tahmooressi without any results. While the situation is not expected to grow into a full-out diplomatic incident that could hinder Washington-Mexico City relations.
Andrew Tahmooressi’s arrest
On April 1st, Tahmooressi crossed the U.S.-Mexico border via the Ysidro Port of Entry, near South San Diego. The Mexican border patrol checked his vehicle and found three firearms, including an AR-15. He was subsequently arrested.
“I wasn’t paying attention, thinking I had way farther to go. I ended up in Mexico with no way to turn around,” he told the daily Union Tribune San Diego in an interview from jail.
The situation worsened for the Marine reservist ashe attempted to escapefrom La Mesa prison where he is being detained.
His escape attempt failed and, according to his family members, he has been handcuffed to his cot. (Mexican authorities say he tried to cut his own neck with a broken light bulb, hence they handcuffed him so he would not try to hurt himself again).
Tahmooressi’s family has declared that the Marine reservist suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that he was driving to San Diego to enter treatment. Tahmooressi reportedly served in Afghanistan.
Growing Support At Home
At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether Tahmooressi will be freed in the near future or if charges will be brought against him. On May 28, there will be a hearing in which Mexican border officials will give a statement to the judge handling the U.S. citizen’s case.
While the three firearms in his possession are registered in the U.S., he does not have a license to carry them inMexico. Moreover, the fact that he tried to escape from prison is not likely to help him get leniency from Mexico’s judicial or penitentiary system.
In an interview with NBC 7,San Diego-based immigration attorney Saman Nasseriexplained that “Mexico has very strict laws about carrying firearms as well. We have to respect those laws going into that country… You’re basically asking the U.S. government to tell the Mexican government, ‘Please don’t press charges on this person even though he broke your laws.”
In the worst-case scenario, Tahmooressi could be sentenced to between six and 21 years in a Mexican prison.
Tahmooressi’s familyclaims that they fear that he may be tortured or even executed while in Mexico. When his mother visited him in his Mexican prison in April, Tahmooressi reportedly told her that he thought he would be killed.
This past Monday, May 5,Tahmooressi’s mother and supporters staged a protest in front of the Mexican consulate in Miami.
The U.S. government has taken an interest in Tahmooressi’s case. This past Friday, May 2, Representative Duncan Hunter sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him for aid to “secure Andrew’s release.” It seems to be in the Mexican government’s best interest to make sure that the prison guards or inmates at La Mesa do not hurt Tahmooressi.
In a hypothetical worst case scenario, if Tahmooressi came to some harm, it would put a damper on the current momentum of Mexico-U.S. relations. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has boasted the visit of President Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in recent months.
It’s worth noting that Tahmooressi is not the sole example of a U.S. serviceman getting into trouble for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A similar case occurred in 2008 when Specialist. Richard R. Medina Torres was jailed for driving across the U.S.-Mexico border withweapons and ammo.
More recently, Kevin Scott Sutay, a retired U.S. Marine, was detained by the FARC, a Colombian guerrilla movement, in 2013. He was kept in captivity from June until October of that year, as the guerrillas believed that he was a U.S. spy. He claimed to be backpacking through Latin America after retiring from the service. When he was captured, Sutay was carrying his uniform in his backpack as well as a GPS.
At the very least, it can be hoped that Tahmooressi’s arrest will bring attention to traffic lanes and signs along the U.S.-Mexico border.
While it’s important for it to be properly monitored to combat smuggling ofpeople, drugs, and weapons, the border is also used by responsible citizens that travel in both directions on a daily basis. Proper signage and controls could prevent more cases like Tahmooressi’s in the future.