A niche site said it was only trying to comment on the presidential election when it posted massive Austin, Texas billboard encouraging undocumented immigrants to get sugar daddies “before you get deported”.
“ArrangementFinders” is one in a growing genre of sugar baby dating sites, which advertise benefactor-with-benefits relationships. The trend has been derided by some as exploitative, hailed by others as legitimate means of dating or sex work. But ArrangementFinders’ new ad campaign, which features a Latina woman in front of a Mexican flag, pushes even further.
“Undocumented immigrant?” the billboard, located on a South Austin highway asks. “Before you get deported, get a sugar daddy.” The last two words are emphasized in glittery font.
The punchline, the billboard implies, is that the presidential election has made a vulnerable population even more vulnerable to deportation, and more likely to turn to sex work as a means of security.
ArrangementFinders rented the billboard space “in response to Donald Trump's promise to deport all 11 million of the nation’s undocumented immigrants,” Jacob Webster, the company’s CMO told CBS Austin.
“ArrangementFinders.com skews heavily towards Hispanic women, with that demo making up over 31% of all the females on our site nationally and over 53% in Austin.”
The billboard, set across a Mexican flag, was not intended to be racist, the company said.
But the towering advertisement glosses over the real challenges facing undocumented immigrants -- particularly those involved in sex work.
American immigration is not as simple as finding a wealthy internet benefactor and coasting into marriage and citizenship after President Trump’s promised “deportation force” leaves town. Just ask Melania Trump, whose complicated immigration saga reveals the hurdles even an allegedly wealthy man’s wife must clear to obtain a green card.
And if the ArrangmentFinders campaign is suggesting paid sex work, rather than a convenient marriage, its implications are even more dangerous for undocumented immigrants. Where a run-in with police could mean jail time for legal U.S. residents, undocumented sex workers also face deportation.
So tone deaf was the billboard that Texas resident Smith Getterman thought the ad was a dark joke when he passed it on a Friday drive through Austin.
“Isn't it essentially advertising prostitution? It paints such a sad picture and seems needlessly cruel. I thought it was mocking Trump,” he told The Daily Beast. “But then I visited the website and found out that, sadly, it's very real.”
A pro-Trump Austinite also told The Daily Beast she was scandalized -- but because the billboard appeared to promote immigration. “I am appalled that those who already came here 'illegally' are being advised to marry to stay,” the woman said Sunday. “It's repugnant - good going ATX!”
To a growing group of pro-Trump, anti-sex work Austinites, the billboard suggests their worst fears: that immigrants are coming to destroy the neighborhood’s decency.“So, it’s confirmed: liberals trying to show up Donald Trump are racist, sexist hypocrites, who are just fine with undermining the rule of law by urging women to find sugar daddies so they can get around it,” the conservative blog Liberty Unyielding wrote. “Nobody on the left really cares, unless Trump himself gets caught saying something like this. If that were to happen, we’d never hear the end of it.”
ArrangementFinder and its parent company Ruby did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. (Nor did most Austin-area billboard rental companies, except for Lamar Advertising, which quickly clarified that they did not own the billboard in question.)
But even Ruby, which owns controversial dating sites like Ashley Madison, is distancing itself from ArrangementFinder’s immigrant-focused ad.
“The billboard was created independently by an affiliate,” Ruby told Fusion in a statement, adding that the billboard “is completely unacceptable and does not reflect the views or vision of our company, so we have requested that they take it down immediately.”