Growing numbers of immigrants are being asked if their tattoos are gang related when they apply for permanent residency, adding to a stigma that tattoos are bad, despite the fact that millions of Americans have them.
As one of those Americans, I understand that there are some tattoos affiliated with gangs, however not every person who has tattoos is associated with a gang (take Miley Cyrus, for example, who has 14 tattoos).
The Wall Street Journal reports, however, that people like Hector Villalobos, who made the journey from Colorado to his native country of Mexico for an interview regarding his application for permanent U.S. residency, are not being allowed back into the country, because of questions about their tattoos.
Admittedly, the 27-year-old handyman does have some tattoos associated with violent Mexican gangs on his body, however his American wife of six years, Veronica, defends him by saying, “He likes tattoos, just like many Americans like tattoos.”
Mr. Villalobos has stated that he got his tattoos because he thought they were cool. Despite this, the handyman has spent the past seven months stuck in Mexico, not allowed to go back home.
Fox News reports that one tattoo Villalobos has depicts two masks side-by-side, with one laughing and one crying, and is the main one authorities have an issue with. Bu Villalobos told them, “Because I like art, they try to put a mask of a bad person on me.”
Apparently, border officials aren’t familiar with a second meaning for the tattoo, which Vanishing Tattoo reports as:
“Comedy and tragedy, one facial expression bursting with mirth, the other one upside-down with sorrow, this is the pair of theatrical masks so familiar around the world. They are often referred to as Greek Theatre Masks, or Comedy Tragedy Masks, or Happy Sad Masks.”
These masks are associated with the tragic muses Melpomene and Thalia from ancient Greek drama. Unfortunately, a Mexican gang has also decided to use them as a symbol. Fox News reports that lawyers for immigrants whose applications for green cards and permanent residency have been denied or called into question have stated that U.S. immigration officials are rejecting people, because they believe a certain tattoo automatically ties them to a gang, despite any evidence the person is actually affiliated with one.
Do you think it’s right for U.S. immigration officials to deny someone a green card or permanent residency status because they have a tattoo also associated with a gang?