Supreme Court rules against Los Angeles woman and her husband who were denied visas because of her tattoos

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

Luis Asencio-Cordero will not be allowed into the United States, mainly because his tattoos were considered gang-related.

“They had concluded that he was a gang member based on the tattoos,” said Sandra Muñoz, a civil rights attorney and Asencio-Cordero’s wife. She was last able to live with her husband almost 10 years ago.

The couple began the process of obtaining an immigrant visa after their marriage in 2010. Asencio-Cordero, who was living in the United States without legal status, had to go to the consulate in San Salvador to complete the process.

But once there, the consular official denied his request and cited a law barring entry to people who might participate in illegal activities.

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

Muñoz sued, claiming it violated her marriage rights. She said her husband was never a gang member and never committed a crime.

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

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against the couple.

“The court’s decision that there is no right to live with one’s spouse as a condition of the right to marry is an extremely dangerous and unprecedented decision,” said Muñoz’s lawyer, Eric Lee.

Last October, an appeals court ruled in favor of Asencio-Cordero. But the Biden administration later filed a lawsuit claiming the couple could choose to live outside the United States.

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

“It can’t be as simple as having a tattoo and being excluded from the country, from your marriage, from your life,” Muñoz told Eyewitness News.

Just this week, President Joe Biden announced an executive order aimed at protecting immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens who have lived in the country for at least a decade. This would not apply in Muñoz’s case.

Muñoz’s lawyer said the only hope now is for the administration to get involved.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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