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.