Congress Takes Up Case of U.S. 'War Hero' Jailed in Mexico, Ignored by Obama

Susan Jones | October 1, 2014 | 11:15am EDT
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Paul and Jill Tahmooressi stand outside the Mexican Consulate in Miami, Monday, May 5, 2014, protesting the arrest of their son in Mexico. (AP File Photo)

( - A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee took up the "extremely important issue" of a U.S. Afghanistan war veteran who's been held in a Mexican prison for more than six months after taking a wrong turn into Mexico with guns in his car.

Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi says the whole thing was a mistake, but Mexico has so far refused appeals from his mother and even from members of Congress to release him.

In his opening statement on Wednesday, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said he is "mystified" that President Obama found time to negotiate with the Taliban for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his unit in Afghanistan, but couldn't find time to "call our ally, the Mexican president, to appeal to him on behalf of our Marine."

"If we in Congress don't do everthing in our power to get Sgt. Tahmooressi, an injured war hero, back to the States for treatment, then what are we doing here? Making sure that our combat veterans are taken care of when they return is one of our most honored and sacred obligations."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), appearing on Fox News Tuesday night, called it "outrageous" that the "U.S. government has not been able to deal one-on-one with the president of Mexico, and say, hey, take a little interest in this Marine's case."

Salmon noted that at the time of his wrong turn into Mexico, Tahmooressi had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and was living out of his truck. Among his belongings in that vehicle were three legally purchased guns. It is against the law to bring guns into Mexico.

Salmon on Wednesday said compassion is a two-way street:

"The fact is that Mexicans citizens violate U.S. law on a regular and continuing basis, illegally crossing our Southern border. Mexican officials respond by asking the U.S. for compassion and amnesty for their citizens to remain in the U.S., but frankly, compassion goes both ways. Mexico does not have the ability to provide Sgt. Tahmooressi with the care that he needs. Our war hero needs to come home."

On the positive side, Salmon said he spoke with Mexico's attorney general last week, and while the AG says Tahmooressi broke Mexican law, he also noted that his combat-related PTSD could not be adequately treated in Mexico.

"The good news is, the attorney general explained to me...that he has the authority within Mexican law to dismiss Sgt. Tahmooress's case on humanitarian grounds once he has expert testimony that verifies his combat-specific PTSD diagnosis. Chairman (Ed) Royce and I obtained the appropriate expert medical reports and forwarded them to the Mexican attorney general's desk this past Friday."

Salmon said a Mexican psychiatrist also has submitted a report confirming Tahmooressi's PTSD.

Bringing him home and giving him the treatment he needs will send a message to other American servicemen and women who are in harm's way "that America stands up for our soldiers and our marines. That's the way it should be," Salmon said.

Several members of the committee on Wednesday said they have retraced Andrew's steps, and they firmly believe he did not intentionally do anything wrong, except to make a wrong turn.

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