We have been round and round the explanation merry-go-round with Congressman Xavier Becerra’s office in Los Angeles. Our friends from Oaxaca, for whom we provided letters of support and guaranteed their return back to Mexico were denied visas to come to the U.S. to visit their family and attend a brother’s wedding in Santa Ana. We had contacted Congressman Becerra’s office asking for help for the family by sending a packet of support with a message asking the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to take a special look at their visa application. It did no good. Our friends — husband, wife and two children ages eight and twelve — who traveled overnight from Oaxaca on the bus and paid $129 USD each for the visa applications were pained at the decision. We are ashamed of the treatment. According to them, the consular officer did not open the file to look at any of the letters, asked a few questions, immediately said NO, got up and walked away. We asked the Congressman’s aide, with whom we had talked with directly, to follow-up to find out why the visas were denied and if the Embassy would reconsider. This is the answer we received.
Our consular records indicate that their applications for a non-immigrant visa were denied under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section of law requires U.S. visa applicants for most temporary travel to demonstrate that they have ties outside of the United States that would compel their departure from the U.S. at the end of their stay. In other words, by law, consular officers must assume that a non-immigrant visa applicant is an intending immigrant unless and until the applicant demonstrates he or she is not. In order to do so an applicant may provide evidence that they have strong social, economic, and familial ties outside of the United States and that their intended activities in the United States would be consistent with the visa status. At the time of their interview, they were unable to overcome the presumption that they were intending immigrants. The decision was reviewed by a supervisory consular officer who concurred with the outcome.
Below is a link to a Web site that has more information about visa refusals and 214(b):
My assessment of all this is that prospective visitors from Mexico must PROVE their intentions to return. It is as if they are assumed guilty of becoming undocumented immigrants who will evaporate into the Latino underworld of our biggest cities never to return to Mexico again. This is a discriminatory and bigoted public policy by our government. It separates Mexican families — the border is like the Berlin Wall. It promulgates Latino disdain for White America. Perhaps in twenty years, a Latino Congressman will have more voice in helping a family who resides on one side of the border visit their brother and parents who live on this side of the border. Meanwhile, this visa disapproval policy is painful and inequitable — totally based on the judgment of one individual sitting at a desk in Mexico City wielding disproportionate power over people’s lives.
A friend, whose husband is originally from Veracruz, says: “I think the consul people don’t need any reason whatsoever. I’ve heard they allow 300 a day, nationwide(?) and don’t need criteria. Obviously not if they didn’t even open the envelope. There are just too many stories like this. “
We are frustrated. That’s a huge understatement. For the last six weeks my son and I have been in constant communication with our friends in Oaxaca who want to travel to the U.S. to attend their brother’s wedding in Los Angeles. The family (husband, wife and two children) had an interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City on July 13. In preparation for this, we helped the family with letters of support and recommendation. We contacted my son’s Congressman in Los Angeles who assembled all the documentation and sent it off to the Embassy several days in advance of the appointment with a request to take a special look at the application. We were hopeful.
This is a family we have known for years. They have a thriving rug weaving and wholesale business in Teotitlan del Valle. There family ties there are strong and they have no desire to live in the U.S. I say this because the typical embassy consul response is that applicants have no strong reasons to return to Mexico, so in anticipation of their coming to the U.S. the officials assume they will then evaporate into the Latino enclaves of our cities never to be found again, becoming one more illegal immigrant.
I find this assumption to be discriminatory, prejudicial and shameful. It mistreats people who have legitimate reasons to visit their families. The policy creates a wall of resentment and anger and keeps families separated for a lifetime.
So our friends show up at the appointment hour. They stand in line and wait after taking a six hour one-way bus ride to Mexico City from Oaxaca. An official greets them in line and asks to check their paperwork. The official tells them that the cost for the visa application went up on July 4 (do you see the irony), from $100 per person to $129 per person. Our friend says he sent the application and money in before then. The official says sorry, that’s what it costs. Our friend needs to leave to go to the ATM to withdraw more money while his family keeps their place in line. When he returns, they is directed into another queue and they have their interview with a terse official who looks at the application, does not open the accompanying folder with the email from the Congressman and our recommendation letters, asks a couple of questions about why they want to visit the U.S., and then denies the visa, gets up and walks away.
Is this is a process we can be proud of? What is it that we are afraid of by letting people with legitimate needs to see their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, come into this country for a short period of time? I guaranteed that this family would return to their homeland. Why is my voice not being heard?
This whole situation is reminiscent of overt discrimination laws that tell people they are not good enough, that they are untrustworthy, that there is something criminal about their motives, that they are “less than” and unequal, and the racial profiling that has become commonplace in our society. We legitimize this as part of our federal public policy by allowing the U.S. Embassy to continue to deny visas with no basis in fact. This has to change.
April 11, 2015. Please contact your Congressman’s office or an immigration lawyer for help. I do not know how to help your family members get a visa to visit the U.S. I am sorry. If you write me about this, I cannot answer. It is a difficult situation and I apologize because of the U.S. immigration rules.
This is the $50 million dollar question. There is no simple, easy answer of course. I have been successful helping some of my friends from Oaxaca get 10-year visitor/tourist visas because of my persistence and because they are great people who love their country and their profession. They have every desire and reason to return to Mexico after their visit. It has also been because I have a wonderful Congressman, U.S. Representative David Price, who understands that not every Mexican wants to live and work permanently in the U.S. His office has helped me be the communication liaison with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City after I have written letters of invitation and support advocating for tourist visas. Here is how the process has worked for me and my recommendation:
Mexican visa applicants must show/demonstrate that they fully intend to return to Mexico after their visit. That means that they must prove that they have a business, profession or livelihood that sustains them there and that they are economically self-sufficient. Often, the U.S. Embassy will ask people to show the balances in their bank accounts as proof of their financial stability. The applicant must have an advocate who is a U.S. citizen. This person or group of people will write letters of invitation and show that there is a reason for the applicant to come to the U.S. This might be to visit family members, to demonstrate or exhibit (not sell) a particular art or craft, to meet professionals like themselves for intercultural exchange. Letters of invitation from any associations or professional organizations or non-profits are very helpful in substantiating the applicant’s portfolio.
And, most importantly, after I have assembled all this information on behalf of my friends, I call my Congressman’s office and let them know the date of the Embassy appointment in Mexico City, along with the names and passport numbers of my friends. I ask the Congressman’s office if they will send an email to the U.S. Embassy to request that they take a special look at my friend’s visa application. It is very important to know that the U.S. Embassy does not appreciate being asked to give someone a visa and they see this as coercion. The Congressman’s office is very clear that they do not do that. But, they will help if the prospective visitor is indeed connected to a constituent and has a legitimate reason for being here.