In an effort to tighten national security, the State Department has increased its number of Visa denials in recent years. A concern over foreign gangs entering the country has caused officials to investigate not only the background of the green card applicant but also the skin. Now, questionable tattoos could provide one more hurdle for those looking to become legal U.S. residents.
Hector Villalobos and Rolando Mora Huerta, both married to U.S. born citizens, have found themselves separated from their wives and children as a result of tattoos, some of which were acquired as children. Hector Villalobos, the 37 year old father of three children from Colorado, expected to complete a routine interview portion of his application in Mexico and return home. Yet, seven months after arriving, he still finds himself in Mexico unable to return to Colorado, his family, or his job as a result of tattoos. According to officials, some of his tattoos are associated with violent Mexican gangs. One particular tattoo in question is a pair of theatrical masks, known as ‘Smile Now, Cry Later,’ which can be found on Mr. Villalobos’ shoulder.
According to Veronica Villalobos, his wife of six years, “He likes tattoos, just like many Americans like tattoos.” She states that he is not affiliated with any gangs and that his tattoos were acquired both in Mexico as well as the U.S. only because he thought they were cool.
Rolando Mora Huerta interviewed for his green card in March of 2010. After officials photographed some of his tattoos and questioned him about gang affiliations his application was then denied in September of 2010. The basis for his denial was an ‘affiliation with a criminal organization.’ His wife, a nurse in Nampa, Idaho, stated that her husband got the tattoos when he was only 14 before moving to the United States.
Both men have very clean records. Mr. Villalobos has had no arrests or trouble with the law. A notarized letter from one of his children’s elementary school teachers, states, “Mr. and Mrs. Villalobos are supportive, involved parents that are always the first to volunteer for classroom activities.” Yet, the ink on his skin seems to speak louder than his letters of recommendation. His absence has created a financial strain on his family causing his wife to cancel their health insurance policy and rely on her own mother for support. According to Mr. Villalobos, “Because I like art, they try to put a mask of a bad person on me. My record tells the truth.”