By Joe Guzzardi
May 30, 2014
Since March 31, 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been jailed in Mexico after making a wrong turn and inadvertently crossing the international border. Tahmooressi’s vehicle carried several guns and the ammunition for them which led Mexico to charge him with possession of unregistered (in Mexico) firearms.
Americans are outraged that a U.S. Marine spent Memorial Day behind bars in Mexico with little meaningful attempt by the White House, Congress or the State Department to free him. According to Fox News, police chained Tahmooressi to a bed, and routinely beat him, often with a baseball bat. For Beltway politicians, wearing American flag pins while delivering speeches with Old Glory as a prop is easy. Doing the right thing, getting Tahmooressi out of jail, should be easy too. But so far, the best the administration could do came when Secretary of State John Kerry “raised the issue” during his trip to Mexico last week on unrelated business.
Tahmooressi probably won’t be released without federal intervention, an effort that neither the White House nor Congress is eager to make.
Not that it would comfort Tahmooressi, but other Americans, Mexico’s preferred targets, have been incarcerated, too. Long ago, the State Department published statistics on how many jailed Americans Mexico held. But when the total reached 400, the State Department discontinued its updates. Former CIA agent and Pentagon official Chet Nagle describes Mexican prisoners as subject to undrinkable water, inedible food, rats, vermin and extortion.
Americans can land in those deplorable Mexican cells on a policeman’s whim. Under the corrupt Mexican judicial system, anyone can be arrested for anything. Instead of presumed innocent until proven guilty, the opposite applies: the prisoner must demonstrate his innocence. In Mexico, there are no trials; the judge makes his decision behind closed doors. His verdict is final; appeals are non-existent.
The Human Rights Watch World Report, 2013 summarizes Mexico’s judicial system this way: “[it] routinely fails to provide justice to victims of violent crimes and human rights violations. The various causes of this failure include corruption, inadequate training and resources, and the complicity of prosecutors and public defenders.”
The comparison between how Mexico mistreats Americans versus how America welcomes Mexicans living illegally in the U.S. is stark. Illegal presence in Mexico is a felony punishable by two years’ imprisonment. Illegal re-entry after deportation is punishable by ten years’ imprisonment. Document and marriage fraud is subject to fines and imprisonment.
In the U.S., illegal resident foreign nationals get jobs, access social services, give birth to citizen children who enroll in public school. Many eventually apply for asylum, and a well organized, well funded lobby staunchly supports their cause. In Mexico, where due process is unheard of, none of this is remotely possible. The U.S. allows tens of thousands without skills to beat the immigration system. While Tahmooressi languishes, today’s hottest congressional topic is how to deport fewer illegal aliens.
A hearing scheduled earlier this week before a Mexican judge to determine Tahmooressi’s fate was postponed until June 4. Observers think the Marine has little chance of release. From the Mexican Consulate General’s website: “Claiming not to know about the law will not get you lenience from a police officer or the judicial system.”
In light of Mexico’s strict adherence to its laws, why Congress is determined to pass immigration legislation that would forgive the millions of Mexican-born immigrants who make up a majority of the U.S. alien population is a difficult to understand. The question is whether Mexico is America’s friend or its foe.
Until Tahmooressi is safely returned, discussions about immigration reform should end. As the Marines say: “Until they’re home, no man left behind.”
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]