About a week ago, I had the honor of meeting U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, two-time Afghanistan war veteran, son, and proud American. I thanked him for his service to our country. Unfortunately, our meeting took place in a prison in Mexico, where he has been held since the 31st of March. Andrew was arrested at the Mexican border after mistakenly driving there in his truck packed with all of his earthly possessions, including three legally acquired and registered firearms that happen to be illegal to possess in Mexico. Andrew wasn’t trying to enter Mexico; he simply got lost and was funneled by the highway into Mexico, with nowhere to turn around.
Andrew is not the first American to run afoul of the laws of a foreign country, and he certainly will not be the last. But Andrew is no ordinary American; he is a U.S. Marine who served the United States with valor and honor. Andrew’s selfless service resulted in injuries sustained in a roadside bomb blast, and a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis. While the prison where he has been recently moved is less stressful for Andrew, he was originally locked up in the over-crowded and violent La Mesa prison in Tijuana. His time in the dreadful La Mesa prison exacerbated his PTSD and led to a suicide attempt. Fortunately, I found Andrew to be in good spirits when I visited him at the new prison. Andrew and I spent some time talking about his new attorney, and he confirmed to me that he feels comfortable with him. We also discussed how important it is for him to stay physically active while waiting for his release, and he assured me he works out daily to stay physically and mentally strong. Finally, I shared that one of his fellow Marines with whom he served, Robert Buchanan, stopped by my office and told me that Sgt. Tahmooressi was one of the finest Marines he had served with. And that is saying a lot!
As Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I had been tracking Sgt. Tahmooressi case and instructed my staff to engage closely with the State Department to be sure we were doing all we could for him. I personally appealed to the Mexican Foreign Minister to express my concern and to ask that Andrew’s case be resolved immediately so that he can come home to begin his needed PTSD treatment.
I also personally raised this matter in a conversation with Vice President Biden in recent weeks.
As we all know, President Obama negotiated with terrorists in Afghanistan for the return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Yet, our president could not find the time between golfing and constant fund-raising to call the President of Mexico, our neighbor and ally, to ask him to ensure Sgt. Tahmooressi’s expedited return so that he can begin his post-war recovery. Indeed, in a recent phone call President Obama had with the Mexican president, he made no mention of Andrew, his PTSD, or the need to get him home. Absent White House leadership, it is incumbent upon those of us in Congress to stay engaged with our neighbors in Mexico, to continue pressing for an expedited Mexican court hearing for Andrew, and to appeal to the Mexicans’ sense of fairness and humanity. I am in good company, with Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) , and others focused on doing all we can to get this Marine home. I am hopeful and persistent, and I will not forget. Andrew Tahmooressi is an American hero who simply took a wrong turn on the highway, and deserves our dedicated efforts to get him home. God willing, he will be home very soon.
Rep. Royce represents California’s 39th District in Congress. He is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.