Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Note to green card seekers: Avoid the tattoo parlor

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on how some hopeful legal residents have been turned down for green cards because their tattoos raised suspicion of gang or other criminal affiliation, although some insist they just like tattoos.

On the flip side, it's been well reported that deportees sporting tattoos can also be singled out for harassment. In places like Central America, tattoos are associated with deported gang members from the U.S., and having tattoos - gang-related or not - can put one in danger.

The WSJ piece relates the story of one man, Hector Villalobos, who traveled to his native Mexico for an interview as part of the process of applying for a green card but was barred from returning, with his body art becoming an issue:

The problem: tattoos"some associated with violent Mexican gangs"on Mr. Villalobos's body.

"He likes tattoos, just like many Americans like tattoos" said Veronica, his American wife of six years, who says her husband isn't affiliated with any criminal organization. Mr. Villalobos says he got his tattoos"some in Mexico, some in the U.S."because he thought they were cool.

In recent years, immigration attorneys say, concern about foreign gangs entering the U.S. has prompted Washington to delay or deny green cards, or legal permanent residency, to some applicants with tattoos.

The tattoo checks have ensnared scores of immigrants"mostly from Latin America"even though they have no criminal conviction. The denials are based on a section of immigration law that justifies "inadmissibility" on national-security grounds, including possible affiliation with criminal organizations.

Read more at: online.wsj.com

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