Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guatemala Visitors Update

St. Michael’s Guatemala Project
April 11, 2007
To: Congressional offices, Episcopal Diocese, University of Arizona programs, involved groups
Re: Mayan Visitors from the CPR-Sierra, scheduled April 17 – May 5 – VISAS DENIED TO 2

At their visa interview this morning, despite a superb personal letter from Congressman Raul Grijalva, a letter and other supports from Guatemala Project on St. Michael’s letterhead, and copies of their already-paid round trip air travel information, health promoter Pedro Bernal and elected CPR-Sierra leader Baltazar Solano were denied visas by the interviewer at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, who invoked section 214b of the immigration laws. The section states in part that each applicant for a non-immigrant visa will be presumed to want to immigrate and must prove otherwise to the satisfaction of the interviewer [emphasis mine].

Nazaria Tum Sanic, already an international spokesperson for the CPR-Sierra, has a multiple-entry visa and should still be able to complete the visit. There is always a remote possibility that she could be rejected by Immigration at the airport in Houston.

Apart from the insult to Congressman Grijalva’s offices, we are disappointed. Because of the health focus of the Project, Pedro’s presence was very important. He has given most of his adult life to the health of his communities, as well as accompanying us in the mountains in Guatemala. Baltazar, as an elected leader from a major resettlement community, was to observe border conditions firsthand here, and also to talk about the effects of massive immigration on indigenous communities in Guatemala.

We are in process of deciding what would be an appropriate, visible, and effective public response. I will keep you informed. Peaceful suggestions are welcomed.

Meanwhile, we plan to continue with programs and meetings already established, modifying as necessary. Nazaria Tum, whom I have known for 14 years, is a leader of tremendous stature (except for physical stature – I tower over her), and has visited on behalf of the CPR-Sierra throughout Europe and the Canary Islands.. We are fortunate that she has agreed to come, and I think you will find her information and presence compelling.

Should the situation change, I will let you know. Pedro and Baltazar's tickets are valid for one year. If no miracle happens now, we will work on alternate plans for the fall.

Again, thank you for your support. Expect updates within a day or so.


Ila Abernathy, Coordinator

St. Michael’s Guatemala Project