Friday, May 7, 2010

Why Victor can't visit the U.S.

That's all the travel postings until I get a chance to scan even older photos. (Click the "Travel" label at the bottom of this post to see what's here.)

But in keeping with my blog title, there's an outrage subtext to many of my trips.

In the mid-90s, I was naive about some aspects of immigration.

I knew all about the homophobia of our immigration laws: how citizens can bring a spouse into the U.S., but not a same-sex partner.

Living my whole life in south Texas and southern California, I also knew about all the issues around undocumented Mexicans in the U.S.

But I also knew that plenty of Mexicans came to visit with proper papers, so I thought that was easy, just a tourist visa. I had a lot to learn about tourist visas!

I was shocked when Victor's first application for a tourist visa was denied. The vague denial information from the State Department didn't help.

A staffer in my Congressman's office explained it to me more thoroughly. The U.S. needs to be convinced that a visa applicant will return to Mexico. How are they convinced? If you have a good job to return to in Mexico, that helps. If you have money in the bank in Mexico, a spouse and children well-established in Mexico, if you own a home in Mexico, if you have a non-refundable return ticket, if you've traveled outside of Mexico in the past and returned -- these sorts of things help convince the U.S. State Department that you will return to Mexico.

If, on the other hand, like Victor in the 90s, you're prime working age, your job in Mexico pays near minimum wage (Mexico minimum wage!), you have no wife or kids (!), you own no property, you have no savings, .... Well, forget it!

And there's nothing I could do to promise that Victor would return to Mexico, since, as the Congressman's aide put it, "Kidnapping is illegal." That is, short of locking someone in chains, there's no way to guarantee that they'll get back to Mexico.

On our second application, I wrote offering to post a monetary bond, but the application was denied again.

We tried once more. This time, I went with Victor to speak to the U.S. consul. He bluntly told us to stop wasting our time and money; Victor would not be getting a tourist visa.

We got the message. We gave up, and decided to travel outside of the U.S. (So far, Costa Rica, British Columbia, Argentina and, of course, all over Yucatán.)

At the time, I had hopes that maybe the politics of immigration would improve in the future. Ha! With Dubya's election, 9/11, vigilante border militias, things just kept getting worse.

Please support the Uniting American Families Act, and comprehensive immigration reform that includes it. Thanks!

[2014 update]

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