130 students arrested in visa sting face only civil immigration charges

Arturo Kim
February 3, 2019

"We underlined that students, who may have been duped into enrolling in the "University" should be treated differently from those recruiters who have duped them", the statement said.

As many as 129 Indians are among the 130 foreign students arrested for enroling at a fake university allegedly to remain in the US.

The eight alleged recruiters assisted foreign students in "fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the school and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, for the goal of deceiving immigration authorities", the HSI statement said. It said it was trying to help the affected students and had met Indian consular officials in the USA about the case.

The arrests came to light after the friends and families of the arrested students contacted the American Telugu Association (ATA) who along with their legal team contacted Indian student associations across the country, guiding them on the further actions to take in the matter. We got these two.

Consular Officers from Indian Consulate in Houston met the arrested Indian students at Prairieland Detention Centre, Alvarado, Texas.

The Indian government also urged the United States to release the students from detention at the earliest, without resorting to deportation against their will.

Indian Ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on Sunday expressed confidence that the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will have access to all students detained by the US authorities as part of "pay-and-stay" scam by Monday.

The students were arrested in a nationwide crackdown by the US' Department of Homeland Security as part of an undercover operation at the university in Detroit's Farmington Hills created to expose immigration fraud.

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The eight defendants were charged criminally for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbouring aliens for profit. The MEA said, efforts to contact the remaining Indian students are continuing. "By Monday we will have access to nearly all our students", Mr Shringla said.

One of them, the American Telugu Association has launched a webpage to help the students and organized a webinar with immigration lawyers to guide them "to be watchful with fake agents who promise illegal ways to stay in U.S. with admissions in unaccredited colleges".

They said the manner in which the students were enrolled at the fake university, created by ICE to lure students allegedly trying to remain in the U.S., amounted to "entrapment".

The American Telugu Association (ATA) reported that 100 students were arrested on Wednesday.

The prosecutor maintains that the students arrested knew they were participating in the illegal operation, they call it a "pay-to-stay" scheme. We have also involved Indian community organisations in reaching out to the students.

The foreign students, however, had no intention of attending school, it added.

Similarly, in 2011, dozens of Indian students were detained in a "Tri-Valley University" fiasco in Pleasanton, California.

"Rather, their intent was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization under the CPT (a course-related curricular training programme that allows off-campus work authorization for foreign students)".

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