Why Must Visa Applicants Go to Mexico’s Most Dangerous City?

ciudad juarezCiudad Juárez: Mexico’s most Dangerous City – Only Place To Get A Visa

Almost anyone who wants to come to the U.S. — either as a visitor or a resident — has to physically visit a U.S. consulate in their country of origin to apply for a visa and undergo an interview by an Embassy officer. In Mexico, those applying for U.S residency can only do so at one location: the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez — where over 3,000 people were killed in 2010 alone. Osha Gray Davidson has an interesting article up on Mother Jones in which he raises the question of whether the U.S. purposefully choose to put the only consulate in Mexico with the capacity to issue immigrant visas in the country’s most dangerous city:

On immigration-related websites like the Juarez, Mexico Discussion Forum and Immigrate2US, members often speculate as to why, of all of the cities in Mexico, they are forced to go to the Murder Capital. Some see it as a deliberate move to discourage people from applying. “This process is built to break one down,” wrote a member of the Juárez forum. “And most importantly, to instill fear.”[…]

“The websites say stay away, don’t travel there,” one woman complained to me. “But for families who are trying to do the right, legal, thing and go through the immigration process, they do not give us any other option.”

According to the article, U.S. officials claim that the consulate’s location is completely unintentional. “The decision was made years ago…before the increased drug-related violence along the border area,” stated Nicole Thompson of the U.S. State Department. A consulate employee also pointed out that the consulate is located in the one of the city’s safer areas. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department warns its own citizens to “defer unnecessary travel” to Juárez because of the deadly violence.

The problem with that though is that anyone who isn’t coming from within that safe area has to travel through the toughest parts of Ciudad Juárez. While it’s true that “the war is between the cartels and gangs” as Thompson claimed, civilians often get caught in the crosshairs. In fact, one visa applicant already has. Gray Davidson tells the story of Susan O’Brien (a pseudonym) and her husband, Sabas. Sabas entered the U.S. illegally and left so that he could apply for legal immigrant status to be with his U.S. citizen wife and child. During the time he spent in Ciudad Juárez he was kidnapped and killed.

Up until 1988, immigrants visas were once processed at all nine of the U.S. consulates in Mexico. In 1992, Ciudad Juárez became the only place where Mexicans could apply to legally enter the United States. State Department officials claim the consolidation was purely administrative and that it would be a huge hassle to continuously move the consulate around in response to Mexico’s turbulent drug war.

Andrea NillBut it seems to me that it’s in the nation’s interest to make it easier for those who want to enter the U.S. through legal channels to do so. It’s bad enough to deny all those undocumented immigrants who made the treacherous journey across the border in search of a better life a path to legalization. Asking Mexicans to risk their lives to “get in the back of the line” to be in the U.S. legally is unacceptable and, as far as I can tell, unnecessary when there are eight other U.S. consulates to choose from.

Andrea Nill
The Wonk Room


  1. Concerned Mother says

    I am a 68 year old US Citizen born and raised in the USA. Since 2008 I am acutely aware of the injustices of the politics of government. The policy of exclusion has been a cancer in our society. It has many tentacles which strangle the life out of our souls. Those tentacles reach and threaten many people. The issue of immigration and the path to US citizenship is littered with pain and death. The early pioneers faced that when laboring in their covered wagons to traverse the country going west to establish a better life. They built this country with their sweat and blood – they were immigrants in a sense. I notice lately, especially in 2013, many of our citizens are giving up their status to live in other countries. We need immigrants to fill those vacancies and the workplace that has shrunk as a result of retirees. Making it so difficult for our Mexican neighbors to legally enter our country is ridiculously exclusionary and just plain mean. Move the Consulate out of Juarez to a safer place – out of the war zone! Excuses are just that, excuses…so stop making them and make the right moves toward compassion and inclusion so the soul of our nation can begin to flourish and shine. It’s been losing its light for too long now – I fear for the future.

  2. says

    This article’s essential message is in a single sentence: “But it seems to me that it’s in the nation’s interest to make it easier for those who want to enter the U.S. through legal channels to do so.”

    Precisely! Many of us don’t want to promote a lot of immigration but would like what immigration we do have to be legal. This Juarez-only policy is idiotic. Even if Juarez were the SAFEST city, it would remain crazy to have just one application point for our big and near and long-border neighbor Mexico.

    But the idiocy has lasted a long time. For decades the powers-that-be have worked to make legal immigration into the USA harder than illegal. In a similar illogical vein, on occasion they have even made the big prize of US citizenship easier to get than the little prize of legal resident. That’s how and why my late wife became a citizen in 1996 – there was far less paperwork and line-waiting to become a citizen than to renew her Green Card.

  3. says

    Every time I think I know all there is to know about the evils of US policy toward our neighbor Mexico, it turns out there’s still more. This is shameful.

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