A message on a billboard posted on I-35 just south of William Cannon is turning a lot of heads. The controversial message encourages undocumented immigrants to sign up for a Sugar Daddy dating service in order to avoid deportation.
It reads: “Undocumented immigrant? Before you get deported get a Sugar Daddy.”
It was just posted last Friday and is expected to stay up for four weeks.
“I think you're going to have people that are against it and then you're going to have people that are going to sign up for it,” said ArrangementFinders.com CMO Jacob Webster.
“On a billboard they're encouraging people to commit a federal felony. It's rare that you see a billboard that says, ‘Commit a felony,’” said Senior Immigration specialist Thomas Esparza, Jr.
Starting a conversation over this billboard is exactly what Webster was hoping for.
“It was one of those moments where it was this intersection of what's going on in society and what's going on with our site,” Webster said.
Men on ArrangementFinders.com pay a monthly fee to be on the site while women sign up for free. The two can then link up privately to determine what kind of relationship they would like to have.
The idea for the billboard came from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's promise to deport undocumented immigrants in the United States.
It was meant to target Hispanic women who make up one-third of those signing up on ArrangementFinders.com. The website sets up women with a Sugar Daddy, which is a man who is able to help support them financially.
“How could we speak to this growing demographic for this site in a way where we could get the max effect?” said Webster.
But it wasn't easy to secure a location for the billboard.
“We had a couple approvals, but we got a lot more denials. All the major markets in terms of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Dallas denied us,” Webster said.
Ultimately ArrangementFinders.com decided South Austin was the right place to put up this controversial sign.
“They could've just said, ‘Commit marriage fraud, call us,’” said Esparza.
Although many people disagree with the message, Webster said it shouldn't be removed.
“There's no reason to take it down. There's a demand for this sort of thing, as we're getting x amount of signups due to the fact that this billboard is up,” said Webster.
“It's insulting to foreign nationals who are in the removal process. It presumes that foreign nationals are going to commit a crime, or are more willing to commit a crime, and that they're going to go to a website to participate in committing that crime,” Esparza said.
ArrangementFinders.com has put up other billboards which caused a stir in other major cities. Two of them that were displayed in Chicago were removed after complaints from property owners.