WH Brushes Off Plight of U.S. Marine Jailed in Mexico

Susan Jones | October 2, 2014 | 6:08am 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)

(CNSNews.com) - It's the State Department's problem.

On the same day Republican lawmakers urged President Obama to do something about an American war veteran languishing in a Mexican jail, a White House spokesman indicated it's not going to happen.

"My colleagues at the State Department are very focused on this issue," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at Wednesday's briefing."And so, I'd refer you to them for their efforts to work with the Mexican government."

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says he asked Vice President Biden to ask President Obama to call the Mexican president directly to urge leniency for Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi -- but apparently it hasn't happened.

"I don't believe it has (happened)," Earnest responded, "and that's because this is an issue that is being handled through the State Department and through the existing channels at the State Department."

The State Department told reporters on Wednesday that it sent a representative to Wednesday's hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, but the committee did not invite anyone from the State Department to testify.

As CNSNews.com reported, Sgt. Tahmooressi, who served honorably in Afghanistan, was later diagnosed with PTSD. Back home in the U.S., he was living out of his truck when he made a wrong turn into Mexico six months ago, with three legally purchased guns in his possession.

Tahmooressi says he took a wrong turn near the border and did not intend to end up in Mexico at all, but he's been jailed ever since, because it is illegal to bring guns into Mexico. So far, all pleas for his release have been rejected.

At a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing 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."

Salmon said Tahmooressi is a "war hero" who needs help that Mexico cannot provide for his PTSD; and Salmon also said Andrew deserves help from President Obama.

Other committee Republicans also faulted Obama for not raising the Tahmooressi issue directly with the Mexican president.

"Shame on President Obama for not making a 30-second telephone call to the president of Mexico and getting this thing settled a long time ago," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R_Calif.) said.

"He's the commander-in-chief. That means he's personally the commander of people who volunteer to fight our wars. And if they don't think that cares enough about him to make a phone call, what are they -- you know, they're going to feel they're betrayed, and they are being betrayed."

Rohrabacher said he knows that Sgt. Tahmooressi did not do anything intentionally wrong: "I went to Tijuana, and I retraced his steps...And on the way back, when I drove out of that parking lot and made that turn to the left, it appeared -- I can testify to everybody today -- it appeared that I was going into California.

"And once you made that turn, there was no going back until you were in Mexico. There is no doubt that this problem was not caused by any intention of Andrew to in some way not respect the law of Mexico. And that -- that is very evident."

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) received applause when he urged Obama to "pick up the phone and do your job on behalf of our Marine."

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