According to an article that appeared on The Wall Street Journal's front page on Tuesday, certain tattoos are causing some immigrants, primarily from Latin America, to be denied green cards. The article discusses Hector Villalobos, a native of Mexico, who, as a part of his application for permanent U.S. Residency, returned to Mexico for an interview with the consulate. It has been seven months since Hector left the U.S. and has not been allowed to return.
Mr. Villalobos's return has been denied due to his tattoos. According to government officials, Mr. Villalobos's tattoos link him to Mexican gangs. His American wife, Veronica, says, "He likes his tattoos, just like many Americans like tattoos." She says her husband of 6 years is not affiliated with any criminal organization.
When Mr. Villalobos denied having any involvement with a gang, his tattoos were photographed by another officer. The consular then informed him that his case required further investigation. Unfortunately, a timely decision is not required.
Another Latin man mentioned in the article is Rolando Mora Huerta. He has been married to a U.S. born woman since 2008. Other than being arrested once for being in the country illegally, he has only minor violations, underage drinking and speeding.
In July 2010, Rolando was denied a visa based on "affiliation with a criminal organization." Again gang affiliation was denied. In September 2010, Rolando's wife submitted additional information to the consulate, but the rejection was not reversed. One of the couple's attorneys said "there was no careful look at the facts or any analysis to determine whether the gang finding was justified." Last week, a new lawsuit was filed by Rolando and his wife claiming that denying his re-entry into the United States violates his wife's fundamental right to be with her husband.
The tattoos in question are the "smile now, cry later" image of one smiling and one frowning theatrical mask side-by-side and the "mi vida loca" tattoo, a triangle made up of three dots. Both of these tattoos are/have been associated with gangs, but have made there way into mainstream pop-culture in recent years.
A spokeswoman for the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs said the presence of tattoos alone is not enough to deny an application. And while it may be reasonable to be questioned if you are sporting gang related tattoos, there is some debate as to whether or not our government is competent enough to make such decisions. Gang specialist, Thomas Boerman, says no, while Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform insists that the government is fully capable of coming to the appropriate conclusions.
No matter what side of this debate you are on, we can certainly all agree that when choosing a tattoo, a lot of thought needs to go into it. Jumping head first can leave you experiencing unwanted consequences. Tattoos are meant to be permanent, and though tattoo removal is more of a reality now than it ever has been, it is not a one and done procedure. Tattoo removal takes time. Make sure you "look before you leap" when choosing a tattoo.
The full Wall Street Journal article can be found here....