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Does Reality Show Exploit Immigrants?

The television world is buzzing over a new reality show, "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen?"

It's "The Dating Game" with a twist: A United States citizen interviews three legal immigrants and chooses one of them to date.

The contestants have visas or green cards, but not citizenship.

Adrian Martinez hatched the idea for the program, and shot a pilot. He says he's speaking with at least one network about picking it up. His cousin, Angelo Gonzales, is host. Both of their families are from Mexico.

Some critics charge the show takes advantage of the hot-button immigration issue, and the desire of the program's contestants to become U.S. citizens, but Martinez disputes that.

"First of all," he told Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm Monday, "we're not the U.S. government. We don't hand out green cards. We're not gonna marry anyone on the show. All we wanna do is play matchmaker between two different candidates who are specific demographics of the contestants. No one needs to worry about anything; we're not gonna change immigration policy with a few contestants.

"We're just trying to have a good time. People come on the show and just wanna have a good time, as well, and meet new people. That's all we're doing. We're not making an promises, we're not telling people we're gonna marry them, or give them green cards, none of that. Again, we're not the U.S. government."

Gonzales told Storm his show is "a lot edgier" than the old "Dating Game."

"Our contestants are pretty much just looking for love," he said, "and we have a multi-cultural -- our contestants have multi-cultural backgrounds. You can have any given episode an Irish, a Chinese person, and someone from Germany."

If dating leads to nuptials, Martinez observed, the show foots the bill for the wedding and honeymoon because, "We figure it's the least we can do if we can create a happy union between two people. But we're having fun, playing the role of matchmaker."

Gonzales reassured a dubious Storm viewers "absolutely" should believe contestants are looking for love, not citizenship, saying, "We're just trying to set an arena for these people to just get to know each other. We're not trying to get involved with the immigration process. We're in the business of love, it's that simple. We're just trying to have fun."

Martinez added, "We've gotten some great responses. You would have thought we'd have gotten some negative feedback, but it's been great. We've gotten people who want to be contestants on the program and it's amazing. It's surprised us."

And, he asserted, "Who Wants to Marry a U.S. Citizen" doesn't push the envelope too far: "I just think our show's a little edgier, and I think that's what television needs these days, something to kind of take it to the next level."