Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wrong Turn

The case of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been going on for over 6 months now. I first heard the story when someone shared a video on Facebook of some sort of Sons of Anarchy-esque motorcycle gang that was heading to Tijuana to demand Tahmooressi's release. The idea of a bunch of gringos showing up at a Mexican prison and demanding anything seemed laughable to me.

Then the whole story began to blow up in the media North of the border. Many called his imprisonment an "outrage." Eventually, during a Town Hall meeting, I saw El Pasoans demand that Congressman O'Rourke get involved somehow and get this man out of Mexican prison. People are reportedly disgusted that President Obama has not "made a call."

¿Que que que?

If you aren't familiar with the story, Tahmooressi is an American veteran who was arrested for weapons charges on the Mexico side of the San Ysidro point of entry in April of this year. He claimed to have made a wrong turn somewhere and that he didn't actually realize he was entering Mexico. He had an AR-15 rifle, a .45-caliber pistol and a 12-gauge pump shotgun, all loaded, as well as several rounds of ammunition in his vehicle at the time. The fact that Tahmooressi was diagnosed with PTSD in March is the cause of most of the uproar in this case, which is still making it's way through the Mexican legal system.

I have been hesitant to say anything because although I have battled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of some horrific situations I have been in, I obviously cannot even begin to understand what PTSD is like for a war veteran.

I am truly grateful for any veteran's service to our country and can sympathize with his condition, but can I just throw something out there?

If a Mexican tourist drove into the United States, with a trunk full of weapons and ammunition, breaking the local law, no one would question whether or not he should be put in jail. It wouldn't matter if he was an honorable Mexican war veteran, it wouldn't matter what conditions he had, and it certainly wouldn't be acceptable for some member of the Mexican government to step in and "get him out." So why should any of that matter for Tahmooressi?

Well it matters because he's American, of course. Apparently Americans should always get special treatment. Duh. In fact, even after attempting to escape from prison, Tahmooressi did not appear to receive any type of punishment. According to news sources, he was instead transferred from La Mesa to a private cell in El Hongo, one of the few Mexican prisons which is accredited by the American Correctional Association, and then given 2 hours of daily phone privileges. After a hearing he had in August, he was given 20 minutes to spend with his mother, while Mexican defendants who also had court that day could only hope to catch a glimpse of their family members from a distance. All special treatment fueled by the media attention he was receiving North of the border, no doubt.

You know those people who are always hollering things about immigrants like, "when you're in our country, you better speak our language, you better follow our rules"? Why is it that those people are the ones who are suddenly demanding the exact opposite treatment for an American in a foreign country? I swear, the hypocrisy and entitlement issues that exist in the US never cease to amaze me.

In time, it came to light that Tahmooressi had actually been in Mexico earlier that same day and even checked into a hotel in Tijuana. Listen, I was skeptical of the whole ordeal even before learning that little bit of information because how does one "accidentally" go to Mexico? PTSD or not, if you're familiar with the ports of entry along the border, you know it'd be pretty tough to come or go without realizing it. I don't mean to sound insensitive, or discount Tahmooressi's condition, I'm just having trouble wrapping my head around the details. The whole situation just seems extra sketchy.

I've been thinking about it more lately because there is some construction going on at the bridge that I use to cross into Mexico so the lines have been extra long. It's given me more time contemplate the meaning of life and/or stare at road signs until my eyes begin to cross.

I wanted to take a moment to share some pictures of the signage you'll see before you driven into Mexico. For those who aren't familiar with entering Mexico by land, or maybe at all, the following pictures show the warnings you pass as you approach and then cross the US/Mexico border. Mind you, this obviously isn't the point of entry that Tahmooressi crossed, but from my experience, they are all somewhat similar. There are more signs than what I have pictured here, these are solely what I pass alng my particular route from the US back into Mexico each day. And to be fair, there is one more U-Turn sign that I missed.

You'll have to excuse the fuzzy pictures taken from behind dirty windows, there's a little dust in Juárez from time to time.









































So tell me a little bit more about that wrong turn?


20 comments:

  1. I never, ever believed that story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many good points. Actually, that pretty much covers it, for me. His defense lawyer can and should bring up his mental health needs before a judge, but I don't think they should just forget the whole thing happened because of media attention or nationality. Not to mention Mexicans are sick of foreign weapons supporting violence in their country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. There is a giant sign at the Bridge of the Americas which connects Juarez and El Paso that reads "NO MORE WEAPONS" and is made entirely of confiscated arms.

      Delete
  3. Oh, also - did I already mention this here? Good book. (since you mentioned La Mesa prison) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/108427.The_Prison_Angel

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for your picture-presentation. When I've lived for 2 years in El Paso, I always was afraid of taking a wrong turn and driving to one of the bridges.... But now I know that my worries were for nuts ;-)
    So, obviously the story is very dubious.

    Greeting from Germany, Melanie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think there's a misconception of how the POEs are laid out but I can assure you that you couldn't possibly enter Mexico by accident. And even if you did somehow wind up in the long line heading South, there are a couple of opportunities to make a u-turn. Hope all is well Melanie!

      Delete
  5. Approaching the San Ysidro port of entry that this soldier entered you will see similar signage. The fact that he had been in Mexico a few hours prior to entering with the firearms does cast a lot of shade on his defense theory. But as someone who has worked with veterans with combat related PTSD, who have committed crimes while in disassociative states, it is a very plausible theory. But even people who commit crimes while in a disassociative state do not get a free pass in this country. It might be a mitigating factor that plays into a less harsh sentence, but it is not a get out of jail immediately and for free card. I agree with you entirely in that Americans have this overwhelming sense of entitlement when it comes to treatment of our citizens by other countries. Its especially galling because we are demanding a treatment from Mexico that we do not even afford veterans who have been charged with crimes in the U.S.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a very good point. Someone also mentioned on the Expats in Mexico Facebook group that if he would have been pulled over by a police officer while still in California he still would have been subject to arrest because his weapons were loaded. I am not familiar with gun laws but many folks said that was correct.

      Delete
  6. "You know those people who are always hollering things about immigrants like, 'when you're in our country, you better speak our language, you better follow our rules'? Why is it that those people are the ones who are suddenly demanding the exact opposite treatment for an American in a foreign country?"

    YES. Thank you for this!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where is the "Like" button? Oh never mind. I see it now.
      Like! Like! Like! Like! Like! Like!

      Delete
  7. Great as always. But hey, where have you been all this time?......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been taking care of some personal things. Take a chance to check out my Facebook and Twitter accounts (links are at the top right) because even if I haven't been blogging you can be certain I'm posting elsewhere.

      Delete
  8. So well written. Thanks, and the case you make makes perfect sense to me. I'd like to see more of your writing. Try your hand at some fiction. Best, Leslie

    ReplyDelete
  9. Emily, well written, well thought out and well explained. I am not dismissive of PTSD for combat vets (I know and work with more than a few folks who suffer this) but they need to cut the crap with regards to this case. Playing the "I got lost card" doesn't cut it either.

    The next time I hear someone complaining that Obama made deals with the Taliban to get the deserter Bergdal but won't lift a finger to help out Tahmooressi, I think I'm going to just send them the link to your post.

    As others have noted, "You know those people who are always hollering things about immigrants like, 'when you're in our country, you better speak our language, you better follow our rules'? , You really nailed it.

    ReplyDelete