Category Archives: Mexican Immigration

Update: How to get a visitor’s visa to come to the U.S. from Mexico

As many of you know, it is not easy for family members to come to the United States for a visit. In fact, it’s almost impossible.  I get lots of questions from readers about how to get a visa for a mother, grandfather, brother or sister to come for a visit based on two posts I wrote in 2010:

  1. How can someone from the U.S. get a tourist visa to the U.S.
  2. Hillary Clinton, where are you?

Since President Obama’s plan to reform the immigration system is top of the news, now is the time to revisit this topic.  Immigration reform will make a difference for undocumented Mexican immigrants in the U.S. It will not likely make a difference for those wanting to visit and then return.

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In 2006,  I was successful in helping Zapotec weavers from Teotitlan del Valle get 10-year visitor’s visas to come to the United States? Why and how did this happen?

All are artists and artisans. They had letters of invitation from United States cultural arts organizations, museums and universities to come and present their work.  We had a schedule of events organized and arranged in advance, along with planned arrival and departure dates from the United States. I worked through my local Congressman’s office in the district where I live to help alert the U.S. State Department Embassy in Mexico City, providing the date of the visa interview, Mexican passport number, and complete name of the person applying.

I have also been unsuccessful. In 2010, I tried to help a family attend a sister’s wedding in Santa Ana, California. The entire family planned to attend  — a young mother, father and two small children. They were denied, even though I went through the process of alerting the Congressman’s office and providing a letter of invitation. You can read about this in the blog posts above. They paid the application costs for four people.

If you want to pursue getting a family member to visit you in the U.S., I suggest you first find the office of your elected Congressional representative in the city/town where you live and make an appointment for a visit. You must be a U.S. citizen to do this. Ask if they can help you bring your family member to the U.S. for a visit. There are congressional aides who can help with this process. This is your first and best approach.

  • It costs over $125 USD for a visa application.
  • It costs travel dollars to get to Mexico City for the interview.
  • You must make an interview appointment months in advance.
  • If your visa application is denied, your application fees are not refunded.

This is a difficult process, something I am not proud to report in the way people are summarily dismissed when consular officials don’t even open and read their documentation. This is a subjective process. It is painful and shameful how separated families can never see each other because of this broken system. I have heard many stories from family members who have not seen their loved ones in ten or twenty years.

Sunrise From New Mexico and California Berries

On a pre-dawn Wednesday this week, I was on a plane from Albuquerque to Denver with a connection to San Francisco. It was dark at take-off. The lights of the city sparkled against the black desert that met obscure sky. On the vast horizon I could see shapes of mountains and the lights of Santa Fe.

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Then, the eastern sky began to explode in color after the first sliver of orange cast a magic glow on the clouds. I realized I was grateful for the three-thirty morning wake-up so I could get to see this.

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Mexico is ever-present in New Mexico. The tales of conquest, weaving culture, adobe homesteads, Native American art and crafts, and blue corn are integrated into the physical and historical landscape. It is easy to transition from one place to the other. Both are conducive to a more relaxed lifestyle and many of my Santa Fe friends spent lots of time in Oaxaca, especially in winter.

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I’m here in Santa Cruz, California, now for one of my regular visits with my 98-year-old mother, sister and brother-in-law. California is another place where Spanish and then Mexican life prevailed before becoming a U.S. territory then state.

As Barbara and I approached and drove beyond San Juan Bautista and the historic mission yesterday, we passed fields of farm workers tending the fruit and vegetables we eat. Are they undocumented?  Likely. They harvest Driscoll strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and other brands we know from our supermarket shelves.

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Acres of red and green lettuces, and chard are laid out like a Mondrian painting. The workers kneel toward earth as if in prayer, just like in Mexico.  Their heads are covered, their bodies shielded from sun by long sleeve shirts. Some rise, stretch arms skyward, taking a break from back-breaking picking. Here the land is more fertile and the pay is better.  Eight thousand dollars a year is a lot in Mexico. Signs along the California 156 shout out Trabajo Disponible — work available. This is not a job for sissies.

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We were on our way to see Dr. Paul, an orthopedic surgeon, to examine my bad right knee, hurting since early July when I did too many dancing twists at a Best of the Beatles party in Teotitlan del Valle. Difficult for sustained walking. No broken bones, but after a cortisone injection and not much relief,  I’m considering a postponement of a year-in-the-planning trip to Barcelona with a September 16 departure.

Should I go it alone now or wait until spring and travel with my sister?  What do you think? And, why?

One Day in Capulalpam de Mendez: Oaxaca’s Pueblo Magico

High in Oaxaca’s Sierra Juarez, the mountain range to the east of Oaxaca city that borders the state of Veracruz, nestles Capulalpam de Mendez, one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos. The village is terraced into the mountainside and the views are breathtaking. Indeed, the altitude can take your breath away at almost 8,000 feet (2,350 meters, 7,710 feet to be exact).

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We are on a two-day adventure, me, Hollie and Carol.  We call it an adventure because none of us had been up this road before.  Little did we know what would be in store for us further along.  Before long, we will be called Las Tres Mosqueteras — female version of the Three Musketeers.

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We leave Oaxaca early Sunday morning in my faithful La Tuga (10-year-old Honda Element) to take the switch-back federal highway MEX 175, first to Ixtlan de Juarez, where Mexico’s reformist hero Benito Juarez was baptized close to his birthplace of Guelatao.  We climb nearly 2,000 feet in the distance of 62 kilometers or about 38 miles. The precipices are harrowing and the jam-packed shared taxis pay no attention to the solid yellow line that goes the distance to separate the two-lanes.  It takes the better part of two hours to make the trip.

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Soon we are in a bio-diverse ecosystem of pine, cedar and oak dripping with ferns, bromeliads and moss. It is a rainforest up here with water run-off, gurgling streams filled with trout and lots of roadside restaurants to eat them fresh.

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I took one seat out of La Tuga so I can haul an easy-chair and ottoman to an ESL teacher friend, the only gringa at University of Sierra Juarez in Ixtlan. On the return, I carry back a locally crafted pine dresser made from sustainable wood.

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After sleeping overnight at the very comfortable Ecoturixtlan ecotourism lodge (try the zip line), I propose we go further up the mountain a few miles more to Capulalpam. I had heard about it but had never been there and everyone is up for what’s next.

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Once we get there, we are lucky to find a comedor open for breakfast at the central market. The eggs are perfect and the climate even more so. We meet farmers and  innkeepers who tell us that there are only a few Zapotec speakers left in the village. We decide this a perfect spot for a writing retreat or just to chill-out for a few days.  Next time.

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Since the historic church doesn’t open until noon and it is only 10:30 a.m. local time (an hour later in Oaxaca City, go figure), we decide to scout out the road to the highest point in the village. There’s an overlook up there and we ask directions.

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Go to the end of the pavement. Take the dirt road up, says a local woman.  So we do.  I turn left, climb higher, shifting between first and second. With each curve there is a vista more spectacular than the one before. Then, we face it.

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A seventy-degree hill (okay maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit) rutted from rain run-off with a base of gravel and rock. I stop the car.  Carol says, Well, we could get out and walk. I say, Well, I think we can make it. Let’s see what La Tuga can do. I press the clutch, push the stick into first and up we go. Except we make it only about half way until the clutch starts to burn and the car begins to swivel sideways dancing toward the edge.

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I brake. Oops, I say. Roll down the window and honk, then yell,  Necessito un ayudante. I need a helper.  Ayudame. Help me. Un hombre. Un hombre. A man.  A man. Hilarious, you might think, despite the fact that we are independent women trying to make our way in the world solita. Alone. Hah.  Hombre, I yell again.  Two children materialize at the top of the hill and look down at us. I imagine they are thinking, Gringas Locas.

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Then, David appears. He runs to the passenger side of the car as Hollie is attempting an exit, tells her to get back in. Carol is unusually quiet. David guides me, tells me how to exactly turn the wheel so I can back down slow, straight and sure. Thank goodness my Spanish is good enough!

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At the base of the road, I turn the car around around. David invites us all into his house to meet his wife Martha and drink fresh guava juice.  His view hanging over the mountain side was pretty darn good.

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But, we still want to find the Mirador, the very top of the mountain. David offers to guids us up there and climbs in the back seat. Amazing views.

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We joke about our adventure all afternoon. Later, we invite David and Martha to join us for a trout dinner, exchange phone numbers, and I get contact information for his two adult children, a son and a daughter, who live in Los Angeles and who he hasn’t seen in seven years.

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If I hadn’t made that turn, I wonder what this story would be like.

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P.S. Find the whole wheat bread baked in the wood fired clay oven.  Stay overnight at Hotel Chorromonte, 01 (951) 53 92052, with WiFi, beautiful, clean, from 200 pesos a night. Eat breakfast at Comedor Mau-Mau in the village market operated by Betzabeth Cosmes Perez.

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Social Justice and Migrant Stories: I Have a Name

I Have a Name has a website.  Writer Robert Adler and photographer Tom Feher have embarked on a project to document and personalize the stories of people who seek a better life in the United States.

ed107cf648aa759d21b5d52c8b6240b1These are the invisible, the undocumented, the nameless, the ones who hide in the shadows, are fearful of discovery.  Some don’t make it across the border alive.  Others are brutalized and raped.  Most are afraid to tell their story.

They are statistics that distance us from their humanity and ours.  And hinder the United States from passing immigration reform legislation.

Robert and Tom’s project, with the help of  COMI, El Centro de Orientación de Migrantes de Oaxaca, connects us visually through the power of photography and personal narrative to come face-to-face with those who have made or attempted the journey.

More funding is needed to complete the project.  If you are part of or know about an organization that can help, or would like to host or help arrange an exhibition in your city, please contact Tom Feher. Gracias.

About Immigration, “The Girl” Movie Opens This Weekend, Filmed in Oaxaca

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez from Democracy Now interview independent film maker David Riker and award-winning Australian actress Abbie Cornish who made a movie about what it means to be involved in the human trafficking of undocumented immigrants who do America’s work.

The Girl is an intimate story that reminds us that Mexicans and Central Americans are the people who care for our children, tend our gardens, and  work in our fields to provide us with food.  The story is told from the point-of-view of a young Texas woman who unwittingly becomes involved with The Girl, portrayed by Maritza Santiago from Oaxaca.  Maritza was selected from 3,000 girls who tried out for the part when she was nine years old.

If you don’t do anything else today, please watch this video clip interview below and when the full-length feature film comes your way, please see it. Thank you!  Opens March 8 in New York and March 16 in Los Angeles.

The Girl is a microcosm. Here in Oaxaca and in our village — in fact in most villages throughout the state, men and women leave their families behind to find work, send money home to support their families, and suffer incredible hardship. I know people who have been left behind and many who have gone to the U.S. and returned. They are honorable, decent and hardworking people who are family centric. It is a tragedy that the United States does not have a more human immigration policy.