Monthly Archives: July 2010

Visa Update: Injustice Prevails

Our friends in Mexico wrote us a detailed letter this morning about their experience at the U.S. Embassy, what they took with them for supporting documentation to prove they were going to return to Mexico.

They took:

  1. the last three checking account statements
  2. a summary of the family business
  3. the paid electric and telephone bills for their home and business
  4. documents from the municipal village president outlining the head-of-household commitment to community service for the next two years.

Here is what they spent:

  1. $540 USD ($140 per family member) for the visa application
  2. 3,400 pesos for Mexican passports for four family members
  3. 3,600 pesos for bus tickets for four family members
  4. A total of 14,000 pesos (about $1,100 USD)

Our friends say that maybe the consular officer thought they looked like Latinos who wanted to go to the U.S. and not return to Mexico.  Our friends showed our letters of recommendation first, but the consular officer didn’t read the letters, gave the “denied” decision immediately and there was no time to show the rest of the papers.  Our friends feel their treatment was unjust.  We agree and are ashamed of how our immigration policy hurts people emotionally and financially.  They don’t want to go through this again, risking another chunk of money only to be denied.

Update: Visa Applicants Must Prove Intent to Return to Home Country

We pursued conversations with Congressman Becerra’s Los Angeles office and were very satisfied with their response.  At least we better understood that there is little that can be done after the embassy makes a decision to deny a visitor visa.  The congressman’s office has no jurisdiction and cannot influence a decision and even a call from a congressman won’t change a decision.   In all fairness, we don’t know exactly what documents our friends brought with them to prove their intentions to return to Mexico.  We know they did try to show the supporting letters from us.  We don’t know if they had a complete package of information to provide the evidence that the family has strong ties to Mexico and were not intending to stay in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants.

Here are my recommendations for proving “strong and binding ties to their country of origin” –

  1. Demonstration the applicant owns a home
  2. Has a stable job
  3. Has a bank account
  4. Owns a home
  5. Owns a business and for how long
  6. Has immediate family (wife, husband, children, mother, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles)
  7. Children enrolled in school and educational plans in home country

Here are my recommendations for strengthening the visa application:

  1. Supporting letters from U.S. residents and friends
  2. Invitations to speak or make presentations or give demonstrations from arts/cultural organizations
  3. Letter of support from U.S. Congressman’s office

In the process of hearing that our friends were denied a visitor’s visa and learning more about why from Congressman Becerra’s office, I know that there is still a lot of subjective decision making that goes into the “yes” or “no” by the consul.  The official statement is “There are many other factors that are taken into consideration when a person is applying for a visitor visa, such as, their age, how many family members are applying for a visa, their purpose for traveling, if they have other family in the country they are traveling to, if they have ever applied for a visa before, etc.”

Perhaps our friends were denied because the entire family — husband, wife and two children — wanted to attend the wife’s brother’s wedding and the consul considered this to be too risky.   Who knows?  I feel so bad that I wasn’t able to help, and I guess that’s the bottom line.

John Ross Reports: Killer Governor Falls

If you are interested in Mexican politics, the state of political affairs in Oaxaca resulting from the July 4, 2010 elections, the fall Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and the PRI, the election of Gabino Cue, the history of the 2006 uprisings  that turned the world’s attention to our wonderful city, this is a must read!  John Ross is a Mexico City reporter highly recommended by my expat friends.

America\’s Best Political Newsletter.

via John Ross: Killer Governor Falls.

Hillary Clinton, Where Are You? Why Are Mexicans Denied U.S. Visitor Visas?

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. “

Recipe: Oaxaca Style Summer Squash and Corn Medley

I have not been to the supermarket in a week.  We have been eating out of our organic garden and the remainders of what is in the fridge.  Yesterday when I got home from the office, I had no idea what we would have for dinner.  Since I was home first, I took over the kitchen.  Chefette for the day!  I opened the bin to find one yellow crookneck squash, one zucchini, one small purple eggplant (getting a little shriveled after a week), some corn on the cob that we had picked last weekend, and half a large yellow onion.  On one of the shelves in the refrigerator was some Queso Fresco (Oaxaca cheese), a bottle of salsa verde (green Mexican hot sauce), and homemade pesto.  Here’s what I did with it.

1 yellow crookneck squash, sliced thin

1 zucchini, sliced thin

1 small eggplant, peeled, and cut into 1″ cubes

2 medium corn on the cob

1/2 onion, diced

1/4 cup olive oil

4 ounces of Oaxaca Queso Fresco, cut into 1/2″ cubes

2 T. pesto or 2 T. salsa verde

1 T. salt

salt and pepper to taste

In a sautee pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium until a splash of water sizzles.  Add the eggplant cubes and sprinkle evenly with 1 T. salt.  Sautee for five minutes over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook for 15 minutes.  Add onions, zucchini and squash.  Stir well and cover.  Continue cooking over low heat for another 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, using a sharp paring knife, hold the corn cob small side up and cut the kernels off the cob.  Add pesto or salsa verde to squash and eggplant mixture at the end of the total 30 minutes cooking time.  Eggplant and onions should be transluscent and squash should be soft but the slices still intact.  Taste.  Correct the seasoning.  Just before serving, add the fresh corn kernels and Queso Fresco.  Stir.  Cover for 2-3 minutes until cheese begins to soften and kernels are cooked.

We wrapped this mixture in whole wheat tortillas and made big veggie burritos.  Delicioso.  Serves two with hearty appetites as a vegetarian entree.  Serve with a chilled sauvignon blanc or chardonnay or a really cold Tecate.

Notes for the Cooks:  Queso Fresco is a very versatile and mild cheese.  You can crumble it like a topping on a pizza or cut it into cubes, like I did here.  In Oaxaca, we eat it for breakfast cut in cubes to accompany eggs and potatoes or to stuff inside fresh made corn tortillas.  if you don’t have fresh corn on the cob, you can substitute frozen baby corn.  If you like a lot of garlic, add some peeled garlic cloves to the first step when you begin to sautee the eggplant.  The secret to this dish is the long, slow cooking of the eggplant.