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Tattoos and Concerns About Gangs Put Some Green Cards on Hold

Posted Jul 11, 2012 8:03 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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U.S. officials are delaying or denying green cards to some immigrants because of concerns their tattoos indicate gang membership.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) identifies several applicants tripped up by tattoos. “The tattoo checks have ensnared scores of immigrants—mostly from Latin America—even though they have no criminal conviction,” the story says.

Those affected are usually immigrants who can qualify for legal permanent residency after marrying U.S. citizens. An example is Hector Villalobos, who left Colorado where he lived with his wife and three children for a green card interview in his home country of Mexico. Seven months later, Villalobos is still in Mexico after receiving notice that his case required additional review. Consular officials focused on a tattoo known as "mi vida loca," which means "my crazy life."

The tattoo is linked to a Mexican gang, but it has also entered popular culture, a gang expert tells the Wall Street Journal. Villalobos tells the newspaper he got the tattoos because he thought they were cool. "Because I like art, they try to put a mask of a bad person on me," he said.

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