The White House said “response times vary” when asked about the petition with more than 120,000 signatures calling for the Obama administration to demand the release of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who's been sitting in a Mexican jail for the last two months on gun charges.
This May 3, 2014, photo shows Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi left, who is being held at Tijuana's La Mesa Penitentiary. (AP Photo/U-T San Diego, Alejandro Tamayo)
The petition has surpassed the 100,000 names threshold required to get a response from the White House. The administration, through the State Department, has expressed concern about Tahmooressi's situation, but has thus far not demanded the Marine's release.
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden acknowledged the threshold had been reached, but told TheBlaze the White House won't comment before a formal response to the petition is made.
“Each petition that crosses the threshold of 100,000 signatures will be reviewed by the appropriate policy staff and receive a response,” Hayden said. “Response times vary. We're not in a position to comment on the substance of a response before it has been issued.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney later Tuesday, referred TheBlaze to the State Department.
Tahmooressi says he mistakenly crossed the California border into Mexico by being in the wrong lane when he was driving with all of his possessions, including three registered firearms. He has said he informed Mexican authorities up front about the guns inside his truck, but was taken into custody.
“Sgt. Tahmooressi, living in a truck having just arrived San Diego to seek VA assistance with PTSD supported by a Purple Heart veteran Marine; a 2 tour OEF meritoriously promoted Sergeant gets lost at the border and with one wrong turns ends up in the Mexico customs lane with no way to turn back. His truck piled high with possessions as he searched housing including his U.S. legally purchased firearms/ ammunition," the petition reads.
“Not intending to drive into Mexico he explains he is lost. Arrested since 4/1/2014, since incarceration his life has been threatened; sustained a neck wound requiring hospitalization and chained in a 4-point restraint, 26+days. The affect of this unjust incarceration on a decorated combat Marine is despairing. Tahmooressi supported by U.S. Consular Services yet low hope," it says.
Paul and Jill Tahmooressi stand outside the Mexican Consulate in Miami, Monday, May 5, 2014, protesting the arrest of their son in Mexico. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Last Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN: "We are working on determining whether or not certain evidence that has been presented is meeting the standard that's necessary to be able to hold that young Marine, and we're trying to find out exactly what the fact pattern is, but we are working on that.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday that the U.S. Consulate in Mexico is monitoring the situation closely.
“As we’ve said many times, we’ve not only attended his proceedings and visited him. Our consular officers have numerous times,” Psaki said. “The secretary raised this issue when he was in Mexico just last week. He was – it is true that he – when he was first incarcerated at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana on April 8, he was removed from the general population to the infirmary for treatment and observation. As we understand it, he has since been transferred. He’s no longer restrained and is in his own cell. Obviously, we would take any accusation seriously, but let me talk to our team and see what the recent update is on his case.”
State Department press officer Katherine Pfaff told TheBlaze that the department had nothing to add to what Psaki said Friday.
A Defense Department representative for the Marines said they have deferred the matter to the State Department for dealing with Mexico.