Memo From Middle America | Sgt. Tahmooressi’s Imprisonment And The Big Border Picture

050214_marine_827[1]Pictured, Tahmooressi’s mother Jill, and Tahmooressi  in Iraq

While President Obama was eager to violate the law in order to free American soldier (and suspected deserter) Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, he’s strangely silent about a United States Marine held prisoner in Mexico. [Administration Defends Swap With Taliban To Free U.S. Soldier, by Brian Knowlton, The New York Times, June 1, 2014] Andrew Tahmooressi is in a Mexican jail – and this isn’t the first time our meddlesome Southern neighbor has imprisoned our citizens for accidental weapons violations.

Tahmooressi (the surname is Farsi, his father was an Iranian immigrant), a Marine with PTSD who mistakenly drove into Mexico with a few weapons in his car.

Other recent American victims include but are not limited to:

  1. Jabin Bogan, a black American truck driver, who inadvertently drove a truck filled with ammunition into Mexico. Bogan was imprisoned for seven months.
  2. In 1999, Marine Brian Johnston of Camp Pendleton was sent to the border. His mission: retrieve two fellow Marines who had been detained by the Navy Shore Patrol. Johnston missed an exit and wound up crossing the border, with weapons, and was imprisoned for two weeks in Mexico. [Marine Jailed in Mexico is Released, by Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times, November 14, 1999]
  3. In 2008, a regular Army soldier crossed from El Paso, Texas to Ciudad Juarez where he was jailed for possession of firearms and ammunition. [Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, held in Mexico, said he never intended to leave US, Associated Press, May 4, 2014]
  4. In the most famous case, last year Marine veteran Jon Hammar passed into Mexico with the intention of driving through to Costa Rica. Hammar had an old shotgun which he openly declared. He was imprisoned four months. [Sorting out the story of Jon Hammar’s Imprisonment in Mexico, Allan Wall, Mexidata, January 28, 2013]

In the first three cases the drivers accidentally drove into Mexico. In the fourth, the driver entered Mexico planning to pass through the country and told Mexican officials he had a weapon, which he thought was legal.

In any or all four of these cases, you might criticize the drivers for not being careful or prepared. However, you can’t really accuse them of being arms smugglers–unlike the individuals involved in Eric “My People” Holder’s Fast and Furious operation.

Andrew Tahmooressi is a Marine vet and reservist who served in Iraq (like me) and Afghanistan. Tahmooressi suffers from PTSD and had moved from Florida to California to get help in the San Diego area.

Tahmooressi was carrying all his possessions, including three personal weapons in his vehicle. On March 31st, he parked his car in a parking lot on the U.S. side, walked across the border and spent the afternoon in Tijuana, then returned to his vehicle, planning to head north to San Diego.

However, in the dark, he accidentally drove into Mexico where he was arrested for having three weapons in his car.

The weapons consisted of a shotgun, an AR-15 rifle and a handgun, along with 400 rounds of ammunition, rather a small arsenal by the standards of a cartel.

Some have ridiculed the idea that Tahmooressi could have accidentally driven into Mexico. I think that’s totally believable. Even for an experienced border crosser like myself, the border area can be confusing, especially if you’re driving in the dark like Tahmooressi. Greta van Susteren of Fox News demonstrated just how confusing the signs and turns are. [“I see how the US Marine ended up in Mexico accidentally – I went to the scene and drove it myself and also walked it,” May 19, 2014]

As someone who has lived in Mexico and who now travels there at Christmastime and during the summer, I believe that Americans should respect Mexican law.

At the same time, millions of Mexicans blatantly disrespect our immigration laws and the Mexican government defends them. I find that utterly hypocritical.

More to the point, armed Mexican soldiers have frequently crossed into U.S. territory and are not detained by the U.S. Border Patrol.

The Tahmooressi incident occurred right on the border. It’s not as if they caught him with weapons deep in Mexican territory.

At the moment they realized he had the weapons, Mexican officials could have done one of several things. They could have…

  1. Told him he couldn’t enter Mexico and made him go back to the U.S.
  2. Confiscated the weapons and let him return to the U.S.
  3. Confiscated the weapons, charged him a fine and let him go back to the U.S.
  4. Confiscated the weapon, collected a bribe and let him go back to the U.S.

Any of these options would have allowed Mexico to exercise its authority and prevent the entrance of said weapons to its territory.

It had to have been obvious that Tahmooressi was not a weapons smuggler running weapons to the drug cartels. Would an arms smuggler be wasting his time with those weapons? Would a smuggler have entered Mexico so ineptly?

Nevertheless, Mexican officials arrested Tahmooressi, and two months later he’s still imprisoned.

Tahmooressi acted imprudently. He should have found a place to stow his gear in San Diego before driving right up to the border of Mexico, especially with weapons in his vehicle. But acting imprudently is not the same as having criminal intent.

Furthermore, it is actually legal to bring certain firearms into Mexico, as long as it’s done properly. American hunters do it all the time, with special permits granted them by the Mexican government. But you’d better have everything in order before crossing the border.

Just as in the Jon Hammar case, California Republican congressman Duncan D. Hunter, son of former Congressman Duncan Lee Hunter, has been leading the political charge to get the Marine released. Hunter, by the way, is the only congressman I’ve ever heard condemn Mexican meddling in the United States.

(Unfortunately, he doesn’t follow that up with strong stands on immigration, as Numbers USA gives him a C- for 2013 and 2014.)

The Tahmooressi case is really about the chaotic security situation on the American-Mexican border. It’s a humanitarian disaster, as well as a security risk. Incredibly, our own politicians seem indifferent to this minimum standard of national security–as well as the inevitable incidents when American military personnel accidentally wander across unorganized boundaries and ports of entry.

If Mexico wants to have a partnership with the United States, let the two countries re-engineer and remodel the border crossings to make them more comprehensible for all concerned. That would prevent more American motorists from accidentally crossing the border.

But that would require American politicians to actually show some interest in their basic responsibilities. And while Mexican officials see no conflict in strictly enforcing their laws while ignoring ours, the American “superpower” remains indifferent to its own territorial integrity. After all, to America’s leaders a Marine is just collateral damage in their mission of electing a new people.

American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan`s wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual.  In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here ; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.