Supreme Court rules against LA woman, husband who was denied visa because of his tattoos

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Saturday, June 22, 2024
SCOTUS rules against LA woman, husband denied entry to US over tattoos
The Supreme Court ruled against an L.A. woman who said her rights were violated after officials refused to allow her husband into the country, in part, because of the way his tattoos were interpreted.

WASHINGTON (KABC) -- The Supreme Court on Friday ruled against a Los Angeles woman who said her rights were violated after federal officials refused to allow her Salvadoran husband into the country, in part, because of the way his tattoos were interpreted.

Luis Asencio-Cordero will not be allowed into the U.S., and the main reason is because his tattoos were considered gang-related.

"They had concluded he was a gang member based on the tattoos," said Sandra Muñoz, a civil rights attorney who is Asencio-Cordero's wife. She was last able to live with her husband nearly 10 years ago.

The couple started the process of getting an immigrant visa after they married in 2010. Asencio-Cordero, who had been living in the U.S. without legal status, had to travel to the consulate in San Salvador to complete the process.

But once there, the consular officer denied his application and cited a law denying entry to people who could participate in unlawful activity.

The State Department would not give a more specific reason, but after filing a lawsuit they learned the refusal was based, in part, on a consular officer's determination that his tattoos likely meant he was associated with the gang MS-13.

Muñoz sued, saying it violated her rights to marriage. She said her husband was never a gang member and never committed any crimes.

The tattoos, including Our Lady of Guadalupe, theatrical masks and a profile of psychologist Sigmund Freud, instead expressed his intellectual interests and Catholic faith, his lawyers said in court papers.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against the couple.

"The court's ruling that there is no right to live with your spouse attendant to the right to marriage is an extraordinarily dangerous and unprecedented ruling," Muñoz's attorney Eric Lee said.

Back in October, an appeals court ruled in Asencio-Cordero's favor. But then the Biden administration filed a challenge saying the couple could choose to live outside the U.S.

"The Biden's administration's decision to appeal this case after Ms. Muñoz and her husband won at the 9th Circuit is a slap in the face to every single immigrant and every single person who is in a mixed-status family," Lee said.

"It can't be that simple that you have a tattoo and so therefore you can be excluded from the country, from your marriage, from your life," Muñoz told Eyewitness News.

Just this week, President Joe Biden announced an executive order to protect immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens who have lived in the country for at least a decade. It wouldn't apply in Muñoz's case.

Muñoz's attorney said the only hope now is if the administration gets involved.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.