U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R- Miami, has joined the effort to release a 27-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran from South Florida being held in a Mexican prison since August for carrying a shotgun he had declared at the border crossing.
Ros-Lehtinen has circulated a letter in Congress urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to continue working with Mexican authorities, decrying the treatment Jon Hammar has received while at the notorious Centro de Ejecución de Sanciones de Matamoros, Mexico, and seeking his release.
“Although U.S. officials have told us that Jon is no longer chained to his bed, I have received conflicting reports from Mexican authorities who have clearly told me that Jon must be chained to his bed to prevent his escape,” Ros-Lehtinen stated.
“When I heard about this mistreatment I was outraged. The extortion attempts, the threats, and the wanton disregard by the Mexican authorities for Jon’s basic human rights are inexcusable.”
In a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, stated that the former Marine “does not deserve the treatment” that Mexico is giving the Miami-Dade native, including chaining him to a bed to “prevent an escape.”
“I’m bringing this to the attention of the Senate so that we can further get through to the Mexican government,” Nelson said. “If it requires me speaking on the Senate floor day in and day out to keep this issue alive, I will do so.”
Former Marine Lance Cpl. Hammar - who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan - now faces between 12 and 15 years in prison for possessing an antique .410 bore Sears & Roebuck shotgun that he inherited from his great-grandfather.
Traveling with a former Marine friend in a Winnebago to Costa Rica, Hammar presented the firearm to U.S. Customs and Border Control at the border in Brownsville, Texas. Federal agents allegedly advised that he could legally enter Mexico with the weapon as long as it was declared.
When Hammar allegedly presented registration papers for the antique shotgun to Mexican authorities, he was immediately arrested and charged with possession of an illegal weapon.
Olivia Hammar, the former Marine’s mother, claims the family has received extortion threats since taking her son’s imprisonment public last week.
"'We have him.' They put him on the phone, 'We are going to kill him if you don't wire money into this account,'" Hammar stated in a Fox News interview.
The family went public with Hammar’s story because they said drug cartels have threatened his life.
"Jon has suffered enough; let's bring him home to his family where he rightly belongs for Christmas," concluded Ros-Lehtinen in her speech before Congress.
Ros-Lehtinen is expected to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week to discuss the Hammar situation.