“Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” — ― Alexis de Tocqueville
On May 28, U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who is being held in a jail in Tijuana for crossing into the country with firearms, appeared before a Mexican judge for what was supposed to be his first evidentiary-type hearing. It wound up being delayed until June 4 because on Wednesday of this week Tahmooressi fired his initial attorney Alejandro Osuna.
On March 31, Tahmooressi was arrested by the Mexican border patrol after he accidentally drove across the San Ysidro checkpoint and into Mexico with his three legally owned guns. It is a crime to knowingly enter Mexico with firearms and ammunition. The sentence can be up to 30 years in prison.
Tahmooressi's arrest has reignited the debate about Mexico's legal system. Based on my conversation with a former State Department official who spent 15 months on the border handling numerous border issues including the arrests of U.S. citizens, the hearing on June 4 will be “very cut and dry.”
The judge will determine basic facts. There will be questions such as did Tahmooressi violate Mexican law by entering the country with guns? Can Tahmooressi read? Can he see? Were the international border signs properly posted, warning that it is illegal to enter Mexico with firearms?
According to a spokesman for Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the judge will also determine if Tahmooressi really does suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as he has alleged. Mexican prosecutors are apparently conducting an independent psychological analysis. Tahmooressi’s attorney is in possession of his Department of Veteran's Affairs mental health records to prove his claims about his condition.
There is no dispute that Tahmooressi violated Mexico's gun-control laws, even though it was an accident. According to the Mexican Consulate General's website, "Claiming not to know about the law will not get you leniency from a police officer or the judicial system."
But legal procedure is not the only issue in this case. Tahmooressi’s “honest mistake” defense invokes an equally important issue of politics.
According to the former U.S. official, Mexico takes its sovereignty seriously and feels as if the United States does not respect its laws and independence.
For example, the U.S. and Mexico have inherent differences in criminal sentencing. Mexico does not have a death penalty; it views such punishment as cruel and unusual. Texas, on the other hand, does have the death penalty.
At the time Tahmooressi was arrested, Mexico was pleading with Texas not to execute convicted murderer and rapist Ramiro Hernandez, a Mexican citizen. Texas disregarded Mexico’s request and executed Hernandez on April 4th.
The Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry opposed Texas’ decision, stating, “This is the fourth case of a Mexican being executed in clear violation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice. The Government of Mexico expresses its most vigorous protest at the failure to comply.”
Mexico might be thinking, “You did not listen to us (about Hernandez) so why should we listen to you (about Tahmooressi)? You want us to respect your right to prosecute and punish. Now you must respect our right to prosecute and punish.”
Mexico may also be upset because our agencies and officials have a decades-long pattern of entering its country to fight the War on Drugs without its permission or knowledge.
In the nineties, U.S. Customs agents carried out Operation Casablanca, a money-laundering sting, without Mexico’s knowledge. This operation caused great friction between the two countries. “Casablanca was a hard punch to mutual cooperation and trust because it implied, in some ways, the violation of bilateral and international agreements,'' said then-foreign ministry official Miguel Ruiz Caba Mfas.
According to a report on Fox News Greta Van Susteren, a crusader for the release of Tahmooressi the officer found him guilty of crime from beginning.
This week past week we were reminded of the sacrifices of our military heroes on numerous TV shows. Today we are reminded of by a high-profile story in the news right now. We have an explosive international incident developing over the false imprisonment of a U.S. Marine hero in Mexico. Remarkably, our President and Secretary of State have not even chosen to bring this issue up with Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico.
I believe the United States would have great leverage in this situation – if we had a real leader running this country. Unfortunately, we have the weak, feckless, neutered, bowing Barack Obama. Our President doesn’t understand American exceptionalism. Our fearful leader doesn’t believe in the greatness of our military. He certainly doesn’t understand what Donald Trump would call “the art of the deal.” It’s time to explain the situation to our southern neighbor. It’s time to make an offer he can’t refuse. This is the letter a real leader of the United States would send to the President of Mexico to rescue a true American hero and patriot, who is languishing in a filthy, dangerous Mexican jail under false pretenses. Here is what I would tell the President Obama if he were to ask me for my advice.
“Dear President Enrique Peña Nieto:
Greetings from the United States of America — you know, the great Nation just above your crime-ridden country, who has taken in millions of your citizens and spent hundreds of billions of dollars in welfare, food stamps, housing allowances, healthcare, education, police and prison costs, free meals at school, and income tax credits on your citizens here in our country illegally. I think you owe it to us to listen to what we have to say.
I write you today because you’re holding one of our citizens hostage in one of the hellholes that you call a federal prison. The citizen you are holding is my Marine. His name is Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi. He is an American hero. During the four years he served in the U.S. Marines, he did two tours in Afghanistan. While on the battlefield, he saved the lives of eight Marines from the Taliban; and in a separate incident he saved a Marine from bleeding to death after that soldier lost both legs from an improvised explosive device explosion. This American hero is now languishing in your prison in Tijuana, Mexico.
What crime did he commit? Murder? Robbery? Kidnapping? Drug smuggling? No those are the things that happen to law-abiding citizens in your country every day. But Tahmooressi didn’t do any of those bad things. He accidentally drove across the border in his own vehicle with three legally owned guns. Yes, that’s his “crime.” Bad driving and getting lost. This American hero entered your country because of poor signage leading to your border outside San Diego (possibly combined with confusion from his post-traumatic stress disorder).
As a result of that honest mistake, my Marine has been under constant death threat from Mexican drug gangs in your prison. Because you can’t control your own violent prisoners, my Marine has been isolated in a filthy prison cell, chained to his bed for weeks. This is called torture, and it is a violation of his civil (and human) rights.
I want to make sure you understand the gravity of this situation. Your Mexican citizens enter our country illegally, and we let them live and work here. Our citizens are kindhearted enough to oppose deportation of millions of your citizens for fear of breaking up their families. We hire your citizens and provide them with a better life than they ever had in Mexico. They send money home to Mexico that keeps your economy afloat. That money comes from our citizens and taxpayers. Even Mexican felons are treated better in our prisons and legal system than they are in your country. That’s why your citizens are willing to die to escape to our country.
Let’s also discuss your military. This U.S. Marine hero made a mistake wandering into your country. But your military has purposely wandered onto U.S. soil many times, which is a violation of U.S. laws. But we have chosen not to arrest your soldiers. We’ve given our neighbors the benefit of the doubt. Is this how you treat us in return?
Let’s review the direct military aid we’ve gifted to your country. Between 2008 and 2011, the Department of Defense gave $428.7 million worth of equipment to Mexican security forces, including planes, Black Hawk helicopters and scanners. Last year alone, we trained more than 3,000 Mexican troops. All this money came from U.S. taxpayers — like Tahmooressi’s parents.
My Marine was armed with three firearms because he has the Constitutional right to own and possess those firearms in the United States. I understand that your country does not have those same rights. That’s too bad for you and your citizens. I’ve noticed that even though you have disarmed your citizens, gun violence is out of control in Mexico. It’s strange how in your “gun-free” country, there are incredible numbers of gun murders. It appears that taking guns away from law-abiding citizens has not worked out very well for your disarmed citizens.
I understand that you have “issues” keeping your citizens from crossing over into our country and keeping drug lords from smuggling drugs into our country. Until now, we have never properly addressed these issues with you. I think that time has come. But we will deal with those issues at a later date. Right now, we have only one issue on the plate. Rest assured, the future of American-Mexican relations depend on the resolution of this issue.
I hope you will consider this a formal (but friendly) request, as one neighbor to another. As the Commander in Chief of Tahmooressi, I’m giving you until 5 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time tomorrow to return my Marine (along with his truck and weapons) to the U.S. border crossing in San Diego.
I will have the appropriate U.S. officials and military officers waiting there at precisely 5 p.m. to inspect the condition of my Marine and to report his physical and mental condition to me immediately. I expect him to be in perfect health.
If you choose to disregard my simple and reasonable “friendly” request, please be aware that I have already ordered the U.S. Marine Corps commandant at Camp Pendleton to have his 100,000 Marines “stand to” and ready to proceed into Mexico to retrieve my Marine.
One way or another, my Marine is coming home — whether you send him home or we have to come get him. We leave no man behind. If we are forced to retrieve Tahmooressi at great effort and expense to the United States, we will also send you a bill for the $500 million or so we’ve spent on training and equipment for your military since 2008.
I’ll deal with the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve spent on housing your citizens illegally in the United States at a future date — after this incident has been resolved to my satisfaction.
This is not a threat. This is a promise. I pray, for your sake and for your citizens’ safety, that you choose to do the right thing, neighbor. But know one thing: One way or another, my Marine is coming home by tomorrow evening at 5 p.m.
The President of the United States of America
P.S. Semper Fi.
No doubt this letter will never be sent by our sitting President. Remember President James Madison went to war in 1812 with the greatest power in the world over British attempts to restrict U.S. trade and the Royal Navy’s impressment of American seamen. It’s about time for President Obama to step up the plate and protect not only his citizens, but those who he commands.