Immigrant spouse of US citizen denied re-entry into US over supposed ‘gang tattoos’
An undocumented immigrant, who returned to Mexico after 21 years to begin the process of gaining legal residency, has been denied re-entry to return to his American-born wife and children because officials claim he has gang tattoos.
According to the New York Daily News, 29-year-old Ruben Zamora has lived in the U.S. since he was 8-years-old. In 2009 he married Texas-born Vanessa Ruiz, with whom he has two children, Ryan 10, and Aiden, 3.
Wanting to become a legal citizen, Zamora spoke with attorneys who told him the process included returning to Mexico and applying for re-entry on an immigrant visa as one of the first steps towards citizenship.
However, according to Zamora’s attorneys, the father of two has been blocked from returning because officials at the U.S. Consulate in Mexico believe his tattoos indicate he is a member of a “criminal organization,” by which they mean he is a member of a gang.
“It’s really tough,” his wife said in an interview. “He’s no gang member. He’s always been working.”
“My kids, like every day they ask me for their dad. When is he coming back and I don’t have an answer for them,” Ruiz said of her husband who returned to Mexico in July of 2014.
According to Zamora’s wife, he got the tattoos when he was a teen but has never been in a gang and officials have refused to look at his record.
“The fact is there’s no flexibility to actually look at his record and say, ‘Look, there’s been no arrests in the United States for him being in gangs,’” she said. “There’s no flexibility in the law.”
According to immigration attorneys, Zamora’s case illustrates the risks of going through the legal channels to gain citizenship.
“He goes to Mexico and believes he’ll be back with his family but because of his tattoos he’s prevented from coming back,” said Audrey Carr, from Legal Services NYC. “Now we got a family that’s been separated for a year. Two young kids. You’re breaking up families.”
The State Department’s Bureau of Consulate Affairs refused to comment on Zamora’s case, citing confidentiality requirements, but did say that it stood behind the decision by the U.S. Consulate in Mexico.
With Zamora trapped in Mexico, his wife said they have been devastated economically and that Legal Services NYC had to step in to keep the woman and her two children from being evicted from their home.
According to his attorneys, they don’t know when he’ll be able to return to his family.
“He’s basically sentenced to stay in Mexico for the rest of his life,” said Emily Puhl from Legal Services NYC.