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He Has A Student Visa, But This Migrant Says Dating Is Hard Because Everyone Assumes He Wants A Green Card

Writer Kalle Oskari Mattila who moved to New York from Finland using a student visa obtained through his Columbia University admittance penned a personal essay detailing how xenophobia has permeated his dating life. Mattila says that his immigration status inevitably comes up on dates, and guys expect detailed responses from him. 

He believes this ongoing pattern he has noticed is due to the United States’ tumultuous relationship with immigration policy. Mattila posits that if everyone in the country is preoccupied with who is “allowed” to be there and who might be getting removed, it can be hard to imagine yourself dating an immigrant or worse, you might convince yourself they’re only after a green card. 

Stereotypes about immigrants marrying for green cards have always pervaded American media. 

“As it becomes harder to immigrate to the United States, the idea of the green-card marriage looms ever larger. TV shows like “90-Day Fiancé” perpetuate an image of immigrants who will go to extreme lengths to secure a green card from a relationship,” Mattila writes in the Washington Post. 

The Seattle Globalist noted that while marriage rates in the U.S. have declined, “green card marriages” have remained rather high. They cited the example of Oregon’s first lady Sylvia Hayes’ admission that she had previously married an Ethiopian immigrant for $5,000 so that he could stay in the country. 

In 2011, out of 270,000 marriage-based green cards, only 3,924 were discovered to fraudulent. Thus, the practice remains largely in the minority, and the stereotype can be harmful to immigrants who are just, well, trying to date. 

“Here, a steady immigration status seems to be a prerequisite for a stable relationship. Generally, I’ve dated liberal, big-city, educated people who believe in open immigration. Yet when it comes to their dating lives, they often resemble vigilant border-control agents,” Mattila said. 

He would then be forced to explain what an F1 student visa is, and when they’d ask how he is was still in the country after completing graduate school, he would explain to them he was allowed through a program called OPT. 

“Well, as a full-time writer,” Mattila would tell them so that he would sound more like a catch. “I qualify for something called the O-1. It’s a visa for people of extraordinary ability. Justin Bieber is on it and so is Hugh Jackman. Most people think Melania Trump married for her green card, but she actually got her visa because she proved herself to be extraordinary in modeling.”

Mattila noticed that his supposedly open-minded friends saw being an immigrant as a downgrade.

“My American friends have shared stories of how they’ve blocked people on Tinder the minute they’ve gotten an inkling that a prospect might be after a green card,” he wrote. 

A previous relationship of his resulted in his boyfriend dumping him after accusing him of only wanting a green card.

“I’d been accepted for graduate school and would begin my studies under a four-year F1 visa — a visa I’d earned on my merits — he told me he wanted to end things,” Mattilda wrote. “Later that night, he yelled at me, saying I’d used him. He implied I’d been in it for the green card.” 

The responses from friends and prospective love interests has left Mattila so deflated he stopped dating altogether. Instead, he is focusing on his career and entering the next phase of the immigration process. 

“I don’t want my dating life to resemble a never-ending immigration interview, where I have to make a case for myself, hoping the person across the table sees me as extraordinary enough to let through. I deserve to have a say in that, too,” he said. 

Stereotypes about immigrants damage the public perception of them.

According to the Atlantic, a study conducted by USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center and the journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’s nonprofit, Define American, found that stereotypes were pervasive on television shows that aired between 2017 and 2018. The organization analyzed 143 episodes of television from 47 different series that aired during the time frame. 

“TV immigrants in the study also tended to adhere to stereotypical associations with crime, incarceration, and low education levels. Though multiple studies have shown that immigrants don’t commit more crime than native-born citizens, 34 percent of TV immigrants were linked to a past or current crime, and 11 percent of characters were mentioned in reference to a current, previous, or future incarceration,” according to the Atlantic

A study by the University of Chicago found surveyed 1,500 non-Latinx whites, they found that someone’s immigration status determined their perception of whether they had committed a crime. 

As long as the rhetoric of the President and media portrays immigrants as criminals, immigrants will be viewed as untrustworthy. It’s no surprise that these attitudes go beyond the institutional and enter our everyday lives.

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