Transaction Account Guarantee Program Extension Act - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:  Bill Nelson, Sr.
Date: Dec. 11, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, a very disturbing thing has happened in Mexico with one of my constituents--a U.S. marine who served honorably.

Johnny Hammar fought in Fallujah and was honorably discharged in 2007. He and another marine, both having suffered under posttraumatic stress disorder, were taking advantage of the fact they were surfers to lessen their stress. They had surfed up and down the east coast. This is a marine whose family lives in Miami, so they had gone to Cocoa Beach, and they were going to others. They wanted to go to Costa Rica to catch the big waves in the Pacific, and so Johnny bought a camper and entered Mexico at Matamoros.

As they crossed the border, he checked with United States Customs because he had a shotgun that was an antique that had been owned by his great-grandfather. He registered the weapon with U.S. Customs so that when he returned Customs would have a record of it. But when he went from the American side of the U.S.-Mexico line into Mexico, and openly showed his great-grandfather's antique shotgun, the Mexican authorities arrested him.

His companion, another marine, after interrogation was released, but they put Cpl Johnny Hammar, now age 27, in the general prison population in Matamoros, Mexico.

This case came to my attention last August, and I immediately responded. As a result of my contacting the Mexican Government, they moved him from the general population of the jail into an individual jail cell. But as they have gone in to interrogate him, they have manacled him, shackled him, and at one point they had him chained to the bed.

This has gone on long enough. If it is against the law to take a gun into Mexico, even though he had already declared it at U.S. Customs, the Mexican authorities could have, when they released his fellow marine to go back into the United States, sent him back into the United States and told him don't bring your great-grandfather's shotgun into Mexico. If that is against Mexican law. But they didn't. They have put a U.S. Marine, who has honorably served his country, in a Mexican jail, and he has been there since last August.

Enough is enough. I called my friend Arturo, the great and well-respected Mexican Ambassador, yesterday and I can't get a return call from the Mexican Ambassador, so I am bringing this to the attention of the Senate so we can further get through to the Mexican Government and indicate to them they have made a bureaucratic mistake.

Obviously, if it is against Mexican law to take a weapon in, then under these circumstances, this young U.S. marine does not deserve the treatment he is getting--holding him in a Mexican jail at the border of the United States for the past 5 months.

I hope cooler heads will prevail. If it requires me speaking on the Senate floor day in and day out to keep this issue alive, I will do so. Clearly, it has been in the press. It has been in the Miami Herald several times, a much more detailed account of his background, his service to the country, and his struggling with PTSD ever since he got home.

Mr. President, I thank the Chair for the opportunity to bring this to the attention of my colleagues, and once again I say to the Mexican Government: Send this marine home. Now that you have a new President installed in Mexico, relations with the United States are especially important and United States citizens who are peaceful in their intent, innocent in their observation of the Mexican laws, where no harm has been done, should be treated respectfully. Send that U.S. marine back to America and back to his family in Miami.

Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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