The federal government, upon fears of allowing entry to foreign gang members, has been very strict about granting heavily tattooed individuals visas or green cards despite having no criminal record.
Immigration lawyers began noticing the growing trend over the past few years. The Wall Street Journal reported that federal officials are denying many people work visas or green cards, mostly Latinos on the basis of their body art even if they have no criminal convictions. These denials are justified by a section of immigration law that allows inadmissibility in the interest of national security.
According to a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs told the Journal that a presence of tattoos in not reason enough to deny a visa application. But she said, “more attention has been paid to tattoos as an indication of gang affiliation during the visa process,” as they better understand the connection between “certain tattoos” and gang activity.
But the immigration attorneys representing tattooed immigrants say that many of the tattoos favored by gang members have reached popular culture and are not a clear indication of criminal activity.
Some of the tattoos flagged as gang affiliated include opposing pair of theatrical masks, referred to as “Smile Now, Cry Later” and a tattoo of the number 13 symbolizing the letter M since its sits at the 13th position in the alphabet, which stands for the Mexican Mafia in gang culture.
This hyper vigilance is praised by organizations that favor curtailing immigration, but detractors say that it infringes on the individuals freedom of speech and expression.
When entering the visa and citizenship process there are number of things that can jeopardize an application such as criminal record and apparently body art. Those hoping to enter the U.S. legally should consult with an immigration lawyer to discuss any issues that could affect their ability to get a visa or green card.