The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said he is “confident” that Mexican authorities will release Marine veteran Andrew Tahmooressi, potentially ending the ongoing saga of his imprisonment.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., said his recent discussions with Mexican officials, including that country’s attorney general, have left him optimistic that Tahmooressi will be released on humanitarian grounds in the near future, although he could not offer a specific date.
Other committee members expressed similar positive progress on the case, but family members of Tahmooressi said they’ve heard similar hope in the past, but are still despondent over his detention.
It’s been six months, and we’re still connecting dots as to what happened,” his mother, Jill, told members of the committee Wednesday. “He needs to be home.”
Tahmooressi was arrested by Mexican officials March 31 after driving across the California border with weapons and ammunition in his truck. The 25-year-old former sergeant says his border crossing was an accident, caused in part by his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mexican authorities suspected criminal activity and jailed him on weapons charges. Since the arrest, his family has reported mistreatment and red tape by Mexican prison officials, and frustration at President Obama’s lack of public action on the case.
His detention has become a rallying point for conservative criticism of the White House, especially following the May swap of five Taliban detainees for prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Wednesday’s hearing quickly skipped over Royce’s optimism in favor of attacks on the president, questioning why Obama hasn’t pushed Mexican leaders to free the Marine veteran. Several Republican members called the inaction a “dereliction of duty” and “failure in leadership” by the president.
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said Obama “couldn’t find time while negotiating with terrorists” to help the imprisoned Marine. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., suggested the family might get a better response from the White House if they invited Obama to a golf course, eliciting laughs from the crowd.
Several lawmakers blasted the State Department and administration for not attending the hearing, but committee officials said acknowledged they were not invited to testify on the issue.
Only two Democrats attended the hearing. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, called the case a heartbreaking mess and called for greater State Department action while avoiding criticism of the White House.
The hearing also featured TV personality Montel Williams, a Marine veteran and advocate on military and veterans causes. He tearfully questioned America’s commitment to its troops, and said he told his own son not to enlist because he doesn’t know if the country’s leaders will provide the support needed after military service.
Family and friends expressed concern not only over Tahmooressi’s continued detention but also the lack of treatment he’s receiving for his post-traumatic stress disorder.
“He needs to be back home with his brothers,” said Marine veteran Robert Buchanan, who served in Afghanistan with Tahmooressi. “He needs to be with guys who know what he’s going through.”
By Leo Shane III (Marine Times Staff writer)