Alejandro Díaz Ortiz: Odyssey in the Finnish Immigration System

by , under Alejandro Díaz Ortiz

My name is Alejandro Díaz Ortiz, I am a Puerto Rican artist, musician, songwriter, graphic designer, and filmmaker who has lived in Finland for the past 9 years. I have been creating art and composing music here ever since I first arrived. Therefore, many know me for my performances in public spaces, gigs, concerts, and other cultural/community events I have participated in over the last years. 2020 has been particularly exceptional because I just released my first single, “Say No” this year.

I am writing this article because I am currently facing deportation after a mentally devastating 4 years waiting process, and for reasons that I considered to be unfair and unjustifiable. Everything has been very well documented since I started my legal fight with Migri back in 2016.

Alejandro Díaz Ortiz

Besides my artistic practice, I have been working as a restaurant chef for several years, which means that I have had constant income sources. I have learned the language, my networks and friends are here, so Finland has become my home for almost a decade. 

The notice of deportation states that I have not provided credible evidence of my income and that they have denied me a residence before. Firstly, it is a false statement because I have sent Migri copies of my working contracts and payslips (previously provided by my attorney), proving that my monthly income is more than the minimum of 1,198€ net salary required them. For instance, my last contract is from January of this year, where I am still working in a permanent position. However, later I found out through the help of a new lawyer and one Finnish activist that my application was being handled as a “visa through family ties” even though I was specifying to my lawyers that I am applying for work, not family. Therefore, that limit requirement of 1198e a month was not for my case as the amount is higher for those applying through work. They used this against me. This fact had never been pointed out to me by either Migri or my former lawyers. Still, I was making an average of 1,600 euros a month, which should have been enough either way. 

Secondly, the first time Migri denied me a residence permit, it happened based on a false accusation for a crime that I didn’t commit to which I appealed at court and eventually won. The court absolved me from all charges. Still, Migri considered the previous case as one of the reasons given for the second negative decision. All of this happened before I applied for a permanent visa, which I did later shortly after the Court of Appeal decision. It seems the court did not get the memo and still used it to reject my application.

They tried to deport me with a penalty of entry to all Schengen areas for 3 years, labeling me as a criminal even when it was clarified. This situation was a very humiliating period of my life, which has brought terrible mental consequences, considering that it was a case of institutional harassment. 

With this rejection, I believe that only a miracle could bend my case and halt the possible deportation from happening. But if I must go, I want this case to be known. I want Migri to acknowledge they are rejecting a hard-working, dedicated, and integrated person for questionable, bureaucratic, and ideological reasons. Ultimately, I repeat that Finland is a great country with wonderful people and a place where I have called my home for almost a decade. As a kid, I was a bit of an ‘oddball’ back home, still even until the moment I left to come here. It was here I first felt the freedom to express and find myself without worrying about some of the outdated social tabus I dealt with while being raised, American Latino. It seemed like I had arrived in a culture and a society that not only I could learn and grow in, but would welcome me. But it has been the incredibly complex bureaucratic system of immigration, immigration policy, and the negligence of some of those handling our applications, NOT the Finnish people, which has brought me great disconnect with the dream, as mentioned above, of true integration. I was not born here, but here I grew up as the person I am today.

This odyssey has cost me so much pain and angst throughout the years beyond imagination. It has affected aspects of my life most wouldn’t think it could. Everything from my finances to my personal life was affected by this. Those effects even reached into my academic life. I had to give up on my Business studies in Haaga Helia since the visa required me to prioritize work, leaving me with little time to comply with the university’s minimum hours of attendance. It is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the side effects of how Migri handles our applications. 

People, in particular many locals, do not truly understand how deeply these things affect our lives, like a creature with many arms tearing through different aspects of one’s life. I have lost far too many pieces of myself in the years. I am barely the person who left Puerto Rico in 2011. I am truly as a stranger to life over there as I was when I moved to Finland.

Still, I am willing to compromise and not blame Migri entirely just yet. I have begun to suspect whether my lawyers forwarded all my details, contracts, and payslips to the authorities. Or did they handled the forwarding of my information sloppily? In 4 years, I have had 3 different lawyers from the Legal Aid Office, another organization whose lawyers’ devotion to their cases has been questioned by many I know. Or I can also accept the possibility of ‘human error’ given how long this battle has ensued. Understandably, some details might have been “mistakenly overlooked.” I was also not requested to provide neither more information nor documentation nor any updates concerning Migri’s final decision. I was simply told to wait. But if I can somehow point out these details openly for everyone to examine for themselves, can they still overlook them? 

I have dedicated my life to peaceful living, cultural exchange, even networking with a few NGOs, sponsoring events for the community, collaborating with local artists, and working hard to earn my salary as a chef. All of this in parallel to the release of my first single! Life was beginning to turn around finally.

But now, I reach the tipping point of a very long and exhausting battle. I now stand between starting a new chapter of my life here without this legal struggle or saying goodbye to that life entirely. I do not know what else to do other than to share about my odyssey with you and hope others do not fall in the same tortuous legal limbo I have been subjected to for so long. 

Nevertheless, I will continue to fight until I can fight no more or have nothing to fight for. As of publishing this, I am most likely about to exit Finland or already did so. I hold my head up, facing whatever comes next with no resentment. I look back because I worked so hard and paid taxes for the sustainability of a system that ultimately

failed me. It is a shame not only to those of us in this type of predicament but also to the good Finnish people. We are being kicked out of this great country unfairly!

Toivottavasti saan jatkaa elämääni täällä. Tämä on ollut pitkä prosessi ja ankara kamppailu minulle. Vaikka minun pitäisi lähteä Suomesta, Suomi ei enää lähde sydämestäni.

Sincerely,

Alejandro Díaz Ortiz

If you wish to greet Alejandro, why not drop him a line at editor@migranttales.net

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