“U.S. Marine In The Tijuana Jail, No Bail”

American Andrew Tahmooressi sits in a Mexican prison today because he broke a serious law 50 yards inside Mexico. He is not there because he accidently drove into Mexico; people do that every day along the 2,000 mile border. He is in prison because he committed a very serious felony. He has been in custody for over six weeks but, hopefully, he will be released as early as this week by a Mexican judge in Tijuana, Ojala (God willing).
Facts: The San Diego/Tijuana border crossing is the world’s busiest border crossing. As many as 50,000 cars a day make the crossing. The hundred year old entry into Mexico was recently changed and complicated by a hard right turn at the border that flows west for two hundred yards then makes a hard left into Mexican customs.
For the benefit of people following this story, Mr. Tahmooressi has been through this border crossing twice before he was arrested on his third trip.
It is easy to stray into Mexico by accident, more so than in the previous 100 years because of a huge construction project on the American entry from Mexico. Adding to the construction mess is American law enforcement honchos in Washington D.C. that set up barriers preventing cars from changing lanes two hundred yards north of the border and regular roadblocks by machine gun-toting Customs officers looking for contraband, weapons and cash that flow into Mexico 24/7. Regular traffic jams caused by these armed men searching cars occur regularly. They sometimes find contraband, weapons and cash but don’t most of the time.
The felony Tahmooressi committed is one taken very seriously in Mexico which, of course, is in a war with criminal drug cartels in which well over a 100,000 Mexican men, women and children have died in recent years. The law is that no weapon classified as being used by the Mexican military can be in possessed by civilians. The military distinction is important in this case because Andrew, who is a U.S. Marine Reserve Sergeant and a veteran of two combat tours in Afghanistan, had three weapons in his car of which two were specifically illegal to be possessed by civilians in Mexico. It doesn’t matter if the weapons were legally purchased, registered or accounted for in the United States. He was arrested for POSSESSION of weapons illegal in Mexico; he was 50 yards inside Mexico when his truck was searched.
He was taken to the infamous Tijuana prison at La Mesa. It is a dangerous place. Word is that he tried to escape and failed. Word is that he tried to injure himself with a light bulb. Fact: He was transferred to a relatively new federal prison east of Tijuana that is modern and, according to his lawyer, is in a private cell for his protection and, we can assume, on suicide watch.
None of this has happened in a vacuum. The Sergeant’s mother is very public relations savvy and quickly got both her home state Florida U.S. Senators – Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson – involved. So did Florida congressmen and San Diego Congressman Ducnan Hunter (also a USMC Reservist) and the media, particularly the Fox News Channel. Hardly an hour goes by that the story isn’t on Fox News. Its Greta Van Susteren has even taken her program to the san Diego/Tijuana border.
The State Department is in contact with the Mexicans and, in fact, American consular officers visit imprisoned Andrew regularly. Apparently Secretary of State John Kerry brought up the subject with the Mexican President this last week while he was in Mexico but nothing seems to have happened. It should be noted that the American Consulate in Tijuana is the largest American Consulate in the world and cost millions of dollars to build. It should also be noted that consular officers visit the Tijuana prisons every day. They interview Americans within hours of incarceration, provide contact with families in the US and provide lists of Mexican lawyers for inmates to utilize. An American is not alone in the Tijuana jails unless by choice. Almost every single American in the Tijuana jails is in for drug violations. Only one is in jail for a weapons violation; Andrew Tahmooressi, Sergeant, United States Marine Corp, Reserve.
Every week, Mexican soldiers wander across the unmarked border in Arizona/New Mexico. Confronted, they are disarmed, detained and turned over to Mexican Army officers after commanding officers of the Border Patrol and Mexican Army work it out. Some anti-Mexican/immigrant fanatics try to make a big political deal of these incidents when they aren’t big deals but their adherents in the Customs and Border Patrol leak the incidents ad infinitum in an effort to destroy relations between the two countries.
To be frank, if Mexico doesn’t let Andrew walk very soon, the fanatics will succeed with Mexican help.

Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate; worked in Tijuana for 4 years, crossing the border every day and served 8 years as a U.S. Marine Reservist