Posted 7/27/12 by Melisa Noriega in News

Your Mother Was Right About Tattoos

When I was ten, my mom allowed me to get my ears pierced after an incessant amount of begging. It was awesome. And painful. But, as if an innocent ear piercing were the opening of Pandora’s box, she looked me sternly in the face and said, “If you get any other piercing you can live under someone else’s roof. And no tattoos.” At ten years old I thought tattoos were yucky and I didn’t really care because I was excited about my very first pair of sparkly studs.  A full decade later and a tattoo is starting to sound pretty sweet. A girl I work with just got an ankle tattoo, and my roommate just got one on her side. They’re fun and trendy and downright pretty. But what if I told you some people aren’t able to get Visas into this country because of their body art?

An article that recently came out in The Wall Street Journal profiled Mr. Hector Villalobos, a native Mexican who has settled and built a life in Colorado with his American wife, American-born children, and steady job as a handyman. He has never been arrested, has no criminal record whatsoever, and says, “I like art”. Recently, Mr. Villalobos travelled back to Mexico to get his green card and was denied. Why? His body art. Apparently U.S. officials suspect he is part of a criminal organization or gang, while he and his family lie befuddled, as he just thought “they were cool”.

Probably even more startling is that this is becoming commonplace, barring primarily Latin American immigrants from entering the country even when they have a completely clean criminal record. Although the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs resolves that tattoos are not grounds for denying someone entry to the country, the number of people the State Department has denied annually on the loose grounds that they have “reason to believe” they may participate in organized crime has jumped from 2 to 82 since 2006. Does this remind anyone of the behavior of the U.S. Border Patrol recently?

If you’re unfamiliar with recent problems we’ve had with the U.S. Border Patrol, here’s a quick catch-up. It all started with a little brainchild of former president George W. Bush. He decided that we needed to double the size of the Patrol, which was a difficult goal to reach, as recruitment for Border Patrol was already in a desperate state of affairs. In order to accomplish this tall order, the Department of Homeland Security greatly lowered its standards for finding people to fill these positions, going to such lengths as to get rid of background checks and lie detector tests. 8,000 new agents joined the Patrol in under two years, equipped with all of the necessary accouterments, including pepper spray, Tasers, rifles, handguns, and batons, not to mention the battery of technology at their disposal courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security. These recruits took to the border with their less-than-high-school-diploma knowledge, arsenal of weapons, and protection from public scrutiny as employees of the Department of Homeland Security. So what happened? Well, they began senselessly beating people. In 2010, Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, father of 6-year-old twin boys, was beaten to death at the hands of the U.S. Border Patrol. However, a recent video shot by an onlooker reveals exactly how events unfolded, and it isn’t pretty.  The officers had already handcuffed and beaten him with batons when they proceeded to tase him as he screamed for help. This kind of fatal brutality has occurred 8 times in the last two years on the Mexican border.

So what’s the connection here? One minute I’m reminiscing about my first and only ear piercing and now I’m talking about the U.S. Border Patrol.  Well, there seems to be a recurring theme of denying immigrants basic human liberties for no justifiable reason. Are tattoos even a semblance of a reason to deny people access to this country? Are those who enter this country illegally rightfully subject to fatal brutality at the hands of our Border Patrol? And why is this all allowed to happen? Well, I really don’t have all the answers. What I can tell you is that if you are a United States citizen, you have the right to vote. Conveniently, there’s a general election coming up in November! While they may not always be in the spotlight, immigration issues are obviously still relevant, so you should know where our candidates stand on these issues when deciding who should be your future president. And on a lighter note, perhaps you should consider the long-term consequences the next time you consider getting a tattoo.

Melisa Noriega

Melisa Noriega
Hello! My name is Melisa (with one 's') and I'm a Harvard University undergraduate concentrating in biomedical engineering. I hope one day to become a surgeon, so basically to waste away my golden years in medical school. During the summer I work on the MESSENGER Mission to Mercury at the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, which isn't exactly related to my major, but it's close to home so I get home-cooked meals and my laundry done for me. At school I'm heavily involved in Model United Nations and watching a little too much Grey's Anatomy (dreaming about becoming Christina Yang). Last year I was one of Seventeen Magazine's Freshman 15, so I'm excited to continue blogging!