Send VISA JUSTICE Letter to Biden's Administration and US Congress

To United States Citizens and Residents,

Four representatives from Otros Dreams en Acción (ODA) applied for tourist visas to participate in invited academic events at prestigious US institutions exploring the immigration landscape. We all grew up in the US undocumented, but our story continued in Mexico. We all returned to Mexico over 10 years ago as young adults and, with very little help and a lot of effort, built professional and social networks here. We are proud of how far we’ve come. Yet the consular officers who adjudicated our tourist visa applications didn’t see it that way. Two of our four applications were denied as “intending immigrants.” We are over being heartbroken. We are outraged.

When people discuss immigration and border issues there is a sense of disconnection from the multiple realities, effects and consequences that policies such as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) have on people’s lives. COVID has stalled our ability to speak out about it at invited events in the US, and now opaque and unfair US Consular policies continue to police our right to international mobility.

In order to travel freely and safely between the US and Mexico as many do, we applied for B1/B2 nonimmigrant visas. In March, we attended the interviews at the US Embassy in Mexico City. Despite having the same purpose of travel, and similar professional, social and financial ties to Mexico, two out of four of our visa applications were rejected. Two out of four of us stand accused by the consular officers of having applied for a visa to share our knowledge in an academic setting with hidden “immigrant intent.” This accusation is based on racial profiling; we would be treated differently if we were white and from some European country. Which only shows how racist immigration policies are. One of the two members in our group that was granted with visas is only authorized for this trip. During the four interviews, the results evidently show the discrepancy and arbitrariness in which each one was treated.

It has been over 10 years since we returned from the United States, we continue to be criminalized by the US government with no appeal and no justification. In fact, many of us receive an automatic ten-year bar for any unlawful presence accumulated after a year upon turning 18 years old. Oftentimes we are unaware of this situation until applying for a B1/B2 visa and being completely honest about our experience living without documents in the United States. Is this the line they tell us to get in?

Under current policies, applicants must also overcome the presumption of guilt, of lying, of being an “intending immigrant” in order to receive a temporary visa to travel. If as applicants we have not overcome the burden of 214(b), it means we have not overcome immigrant intent. If a consular officer has any concern or prejudice, they deny the visa application by default. This is an arbitrary and unfair process.

In Mexico (prior to COVID), the approval rate at US Embassies in Mexico fluctuated between 60-70%. Embassies and Consulate offices do not have official visa approval limits, but there is a certain pressure to fit within the general curve among officers. Having a 100% approval rate on any given day is frowned upon. In the case of people like us--returned or deported after having lived in the US without documents, often as children--it is clear that our experience of growing up undocumented in the US and of having family ties there is considered a strong reason for rejection, even after 10 years of establishing a life in our country of origin.

All four of us grew up undocumented in the US and we all returned to Mexico over ten years ago, we have professional careers and some have traveled to multiple countries outside Mexico. We are still members of mixed status families (US citizen, permanent residents, undocumented, DACAmented) and communities in the US. We also have a whole lot of people in Mexico too. With a lot of struggle, we can and have rebuilt our lives again and created roots in Mexico. It is also true that, in these ten+ years, the relationships and connections that we left behind in the US have struggled across the trauma and distance. The US government can never give us back the time we lost on our professional and personal life path due to these bars, but we are owed a fair and transparent process for returning legally after ten years and the systemic policy changes needed to ensure that no one is so arbitrarily denied again.

We are here to hold this country accountable for its implementation and toleration of pre-Civil Rights practices in the form of consular policy across the globe. Two more of us have been denied legal, safe mobility between the two countries. For the rest of our community members that have previously been issued visas they also continue to face the abuse of discretionary power, racial profiling and criminalization at every port of entry when they cross to the United States. The targeting of our people doesn’t end with just a visa. There is a lot more to keep doing in order to dismantle the systems that oppress, exclude and dehumanize us. People born with automatic international mobility might never understand, their bodies will never feel what we feel everyday. The sleepless nights, the sweaty hands and tension in our bodies transition into numbness, nauseous and collective anger upon once again experiencing the rampant, indisputable bias and prejudice that racialize and discriminate against certain applicant pools.

We stand together with our extended deported and forcibly returned community to ensure our message is delivered and understood with the anger that fuels and moves us to speak up. We deliver this message not through victimization nor expecting to be portrayed as resilient people. We are people like you and our demands are nothing more and nothing less than what people everywhere deserve.

Sincerely,

David, Esmeralda, Rossy, Yarisell & Maggie

Call to Action:

If after reading this you want to take action, we ask you to write to the Executive Office of the Biden Administration and your US Representatives, asking them to support the following:

  • Issue a B1/B2 nonimmigrant visa to the two members of our team that were denied by the US Embassy in Mexico City to join us in our upcoming delegations.

  • Immediate creation of the U.S. Embassy and Consulate directives that require officers to consider temporary family reunification of returned and deported individuals as a positive discretionary factor at the time of issuing non-immigrant visas and NOT a reason to accuse one of a hidden “immigrant intent.”

  • Immediate creation of waivers for automatic bars (e.g., unlawful presence, entry without inspection after a prior removal, multiple deportations, false claims and misrepresentations, etc.) for those seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Additionally we ask you support the following initiatives that contribute to the mobility of other deported and forced returned people in our community:

  • Support The New Way Forward Act (HR 5383): A Path Towards An Immigration System Based in Dignity and Racial Justice. The New Way Forward Act advances key principals toward dismantling outdated racist laws on an immigration enforcement legal system. For example ending the laws that create automatic pipelines to deportation through the criminal legal system; ending automatic deportations and summary proceedings for people who have had contact with the criminal legal system; decriminalize migration by repealing criminal prosecution for unlawful entry and reentry into the US; and create a process for people previously ordered deported to apply to come home.

  • Eliminate the 3 and 10 year bars that are in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act.

  • Urge Biden and his administration to support the initiative A Chance to Come Home to create a centralized Office of Review of Order of Removal (OROR) within the Department of Homeland Security to efficiently and compassionately review applications from those who hope to return to their families and communities in the United States. OROR would operate as an independent entity under the supervision of the DHS secretary, not the director of ICE. Rather than asking immigration courts or DHS attorneys to reopen removal orders, deported individuals seeking return would submit applications directly to OROR. The office would consider each application using a set of factors that reflect the overwhelming challenges faced by the deported individuals and their families.


Letter Campaign by