Fake university arrests swell to 146

Ritu Jha –

The number of people arrested in the case of the fake university set up as a sting operation has gone up to 146.

Carissa Cutrell, a spokesperson for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told indica, “As of Friday, February 1, ICE had arrested 146 individuals for civil immigration violations related to their enrollment in the University of Farmington.” Earlier, the 130 people had been arrested, most of them being from India, provoking a protest from the Indian government.

After the arrests became news January, 30, it issued a demarche to the United States embassy and consular staff in the US visited the students at various detention centers. It has also set up a helpline and is working with the various organizations that are trying to help those arrested.

February 6, it sent a letter to the Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of homeland security and Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, conveying the concerns of the Indian American community and the Indian consulate regarding the treatment of the detainees.

The US special agents from ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations had begun the arrests across the United States on the basis of the scheme “pay and stay” designed to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud.

The ‘University of Farmington in Michigan,’ was established in 2015 but had no staff, instructors and educators and curriculum, or building. However, enrolled students were offered curricular practical training authorization if they paid the tuition fee. The ‘university’ enrolled 600 people using this strategy, aided by eight of those enrolled who earned referral fees to bring in more people.

HSI reject the claims of those arrested that they did not know it was a fake university.

The Indian embassy in Washington DC released a letter, also signed by representatives Tom Suozzi, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Rob Woodall and Brenda Lawrence, that expressed concern about the arrest of what was then 129 Indians and urged that they are freed on bond and treated properly.

The letter also expresses some frustration, saying, “India is an important strategic partner and friend to the United States. In 2017, Indian students comprised of 17.3 percent of all international students in our country, numbering over 186,000. These students are a vital pillar of the people to people exchanges between the two countries. And they come to the US on grounds of merit. In the spirit of continuing cooperation and educational exchange programs, which benefit both countries economically and culturally, we ask that you ensure the students involved in this case are treated, fairly, humanely and accordance with due process.”

The letter did not seek the immediate release of the detainees but urged DHS and ICE to ensure they are treated properly and afforded all rights under the law, including access to an attorney and release on ‘bond if they are eligible.”

Cutrell told indica, ” Bond decisions are reviewed individually, taking into account factors like immigration history, criminal history and community ties.

“Although it is not uncommon for an alien to be afforded the option to bond out of custody, there are many exceptions and complexities. Aliens may appeal ICE’s bond decision to an immigration judge at various points throughout their immigration court proceedings. If an immigration judge grants an alien bond, ICE will release the alien once he/she posts bond. They must still appear in immigration court once released from ICE custody.”

When asked can they the students work since they are out of status at present, another ICE spokesperson Khaalid H Walls said, “ Individuals who have questions about whether or not they are authorized to work should
discuss the details of their unique circumstances with an immigration attorney.”

“Yes they are out of status but if they are allowed to reinstate which some are allowed they can regain their status,” said Anu Peshawaria, US Federal Immigration Lawyer.

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