Congressional leaders, including U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, are pushing for the release of a U.S. Marine veteran who was detained in Mexico last month for bringing outlawed weapons into the country.
Marine Reservist Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, of Weston, Fla., was arrested April 1 after driving his black Ford pickup into Tijuana at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, near south San Diego.
Tahmooressi, who was in possession of three U.S.-registered firearms, got lost near the border after dark and took a wrong turn into Mexico, his family said.
Now Tahmooressi, who was in the San Diego area to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, is shackled to a cot with his limbs restrained following an escape attempt at the La Mesa penitentiary, his mother, Jill Tahmooressi, told NBC Miami.
On Friday, Congressman Hunter sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking the State Department to “secure Andrew’s release,” saying it’s “critical” that the Marine be released as soon as possible.
"Andrew is neither a criminal nor a weapons trafficker, and his incarceration is an extraordinarily unfortunate occurrence," Hunter writes.
He described how Tahmooressi reportedly suffered a knife wound to the neck and was scheduled for transfer to a maximum security facility about 40 miles outside Tijuana. The congressman also explains how Tahmooressi has served three combat tours in Afghanistan.
To date, U.S. officials have visited Tahmooressi at least nine times since his arrest.
On May 28, border officials are expected to give a statement about the case to a judge. In the meantime, a WhiteHouse.gov petition has been posted to demand his release and a Facebook page -- "Free USMC Sgt Tahmooressi from Mexican Jail" -- has also been set up to support the soldier.
His mother said the wait for her son’s release has been agonizing.
"I've gotta be big and brave for Andrew's sake," said Jill Tahmooressi. "You know that expression that you leave no man behind."
The mother is begging anyone and everyone to take a moment to sign the White House petition this month so her son can finally come home.
"I'm pleading to the American public, to sign the White House petition; so that I can get that 100,000 signatures this month of May," she said.
Jill was able to visit her son at the prison on April 14.
The worst night for Jill was about four days into her son's time in prison.
"He said, 'Mom, I'm not going to make it through the night, I'm gonna be killed tonight. Whatever you do, don't come down here to ask questions,’” said Jill.
San Diego-based immigration attorney Saman Nasseri said Tahmooressi’s case is a difficult one.
“Mexico has very strict laws about carrying firearms as well. We have to respect those laws going into that country,” Nasseri told NBC 7 on Friday.
The attorney said the case is even more complicated because it involves two federal governments and different law enforcement agencies.
“You’re basically asking the U.S. government to tell the Mexican government, ‘Please don’t press charges on this person even though he broke your laws,’” he explained.
And, though leaders and Tahmoressi’s family are doing all they can to set him free, Nasseri said that right now, it’s really a waiting game.
“Unfortunately, he’s just to have to wait,” said Nasseri. “A little bit more time until the U.S. government and the Mexican government can get situated with each other and a resolution can be found.”