Ritu Jha –
The student recruiters who allegedly fraudulently helped hundreds of foreign nationals illegally remain in the US as students of the fake University of Farmington are to presented in court again February 3.
“Everyone is being held until Monday’s detention hearings,” a spokesperson for the US District Court of Eastern Michigan told indica, speaking particularly of the six recruiters arrested and detained in Michigan by US marshals. The six defendants made their first appearance before US Magistrate Judge David Grand on Thursday. Grand informed them of the charges against them, appointed a Federal Defender’s Office lawyer for them, and ordered them detained pending a full detention hearing at 1 pm February 3.
At that hearing, a federal prosecutor is expected to tell Grand why the men should be detained pending trial while an FDO lawyer could potentially argue that they should be released on bond pending trial. The judge also will complete an arraignment, giving the men an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges.
January 30, law enforcement arrested 130 students many of who are still in jail while a few have been released after they surrendered their passports and after agreeing to leave the country by February 5. From 2015 through 2017 January, the school enrolled 600 students.
The university website is down, Before its Facebook page went down, it announced a University of Farmington conference to be held February 4-6 in Fremont, California.
When indica called the address posted on Facebook the owner said there was no booking made, but that they offered space on rent for conferences and classes.
Carissa Cutrell, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson, told indica that of the 130 students arrested 129 were Indian nationals and face civil immigration violations charges.
“These individuals have been placed in removal proceedings, and ICE will seek to maintain them in its custody pending the outcome of those proceedings. I don’t have a breakdown of current custody status or arrest locations. Arrests took place across the US,” Cutrell said.
Chandra, a Bay Area resident, a friend of Prem Rampersad, one of the eight recruiters arrested, confirmed that some Bay Area students have been released and have been given until February 5 to leave the country with ICE agents holding their passports for the moment. He said ICE agents in South California have not yet released the students there.
Raj, who met his arrested cousin who was arrested in the sting Adelanto ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, told indica there are about seven students still in custody there.
Mohan Nannapaneni, former president of the Telugu Association of North America and founder of TEAM Aid, which helps people living abroad in bad situations, told indica his phone has been buzzing since early morning and that TEAM Aid is helping students affected by the University of Farmington sting.
Nannapaneni, who has worked with the 1,500 mostly Indian victims of the sham Tri Valley University in Pleasanton, California in 2011, sounded angry as well.
He said that while a few in India argued it is the government and the university’s fault, “Here it is clearly the students’ mistake. “If you are on an F-1 visa, the fundamental thing is attending classes. Here they never saw the professors. So they knew something was fishy.” Nannapaneni said the students knew that the university’s name is not on the government website, yet enrolled, desperate for opportunity at a time that there are not enough jobs.
Nannapaneni said most of these students are not new to the US. Only one out of five students gets H-1B work visas and so enroll in a new school to stay in status, he said.
When asked who are these students enrolled at the University of Farmington, are they new in the US, said most of them are here residing in the US and trying to maintain their status.
“Students coming from India probably don’t know, but students already here know [the system] and they … still they say university cheated them. I don’t take this [as truth],” Nannapaneni said. This is making our community look bad. They are jeopardizing our reputations. We do not want to look like criminals.”
Nannapaneni said it is clear evidence of a bribe if one gets curricular practical training authorization on day one.
He said there was no way of protecting them from deportation, adding that he had warned students multiple times, “You better watch what you are doing.”
Unlike in the case of the fake Tri-Valley University, where students had no idea it was a scam, this time things were different, Nannapaneni said.
“Here the kids arrested have no ground to fight.”