A Scam I Can’t Recover From

Content warning: The stories throughout this issue may be especially activating for some readers. Many of these pieces involve descriptions of traumatic experiences including sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, queer/transphobic violence, in addition to the violence of states and false borders.

Hello, my name is Tyler. I am an immigrant that came to study in the U.S., San Francisco. Just like many other immigrants who visit the USA, after my studies, I didn’t want to go back to my country. I had a few friends who worked in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who were lucky enough to extend their stay by being involved in STEM; I understand these subjects are quite a good deal for students who want to continue with their studies. I wish I had taken one of them. I tried many ways to extend my stay including getting married (for business reasons only) to a U.S. citizen just to get papers, then later get divorced. I was misled into thinking that was the easiest way, but it turned out to be the biggest misfortune.

I looked for a gay man as a partner,  since I am also gay and, being in the USA, that was perhaps the easiest part of the process. Luckily, I found N through a mutual friend (I only had like two friends). We met a couple of times and talked about the business on the table, benefits and also risks associated with it. We started going on dates soon enough just to be seen together, took photos and posted them all over social media to show how much we were into each other out there. Within no time, I had moved in with him and we were officially a couple. At that moment, I did not know who was fooling whom. So days passed and we had to officially start the business, that’s where money started being an issue. N asked for $10,000 for the whole process but there were to be other expenses involved along the way, all under my belt. This was a “do or die” situation, and crazily enough, I went for “die.” 

I was able to bargain with my “husband-to-be,” and the amount went down to $8,000. Well, this was a good deal to pay for citizenship, which is not easy to get following the legal process. Raising the amount was not easy, but with time I was able to raise it through family and friends who had no idea of what I was borrowing the money for. I promised to refund it within no time after getting my first job. Our dates continued, and I finally made the payment without a second thought. Weeks went by, and N didn’t give any negative energy signs.

Clearly, I thought this was it until one day the unexpected happened. N left the house as I was outside getting groceries and never came back. He was nowhere to be found on the phone, in emails or on social media. Days became weeks, and my world started spinning in a different direction. I did not know anyone else, and my time as a student in the USA had lapsed. Rent would be due soon enough, and the landlord was on my case. I had to run. Unfortunately, I could not report any of this, considering I was attempting fraud. Any legal approach on this would have led to deportation. I had been scammed, something I will never recover from. With no house, no money and no documentation, I was homeless without a doubt. For various reasons, no one would take me in, and the streets became my home to this day.

Why can’t the government just offer an option for immigrant students to stay around in the U.S. if they wish? Why can’t the government allow immigrants to come in with the proper qualifications and documentation and work for a period of time without making it difficult? Why can’t immigrants search for greener pastures here without having to suffer like this? I wish I could answer all these questions running in my mind every night as I lay my head to sleep.