Indian students held in sting op by U.S. agencies, claims Facebook post

Over 100 students arrested in US immigration fraud attorneys cry foul

Over 100 students arrested in US immigration fraud attorneys cry foul

In the evolving case of the University of Farmington sting operation that The Hindu has been closely monitoring, 129 of the 130 arrested "students" are Indian nationals, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in an email.

The operation to identify those engaged in immigration fraud dates back to 2015, when United States undercover agencies set up the fake college to entrap recruiters.

"The university was being used by foreign citizens as a "pay to stay" scheme which allowed these individuals to stay in the United States as a result of foreign citizens falsely asserting that they were enrolled as full-time students in an approved educational program and that they were making normal progress toward completion of the course of study", the indictment reportedly states.

"ATA has contacted several attorneys and confirmed that arrest warrants for 600 students have been issued".

According to the American Telugu Association, eight Indian student recruiters have been charged in a United States federal court for participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign nationals stay in the USA illegally, according to the indictments. "These individuals have been placed in removal proceedings, and ICE will seek to maintain them in its custody pending the outcome of those proceedings", the email from ICE said.

The external affairs ministry said in a statement that the demarche issued to the USA embassy had conveyed India's "concern over the dignity and well-being of the detained students and the need for immediate consular access".

For queries and assistance related to the detention of Indian students in the USA, please contact our special 24/7 helpline.

Students across the country, in New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston, Michigan, California, Louisiana, North Carolina, and St Louis, have been arrested. The students had immigrated legally to the U.S. on student visas and had transferred to the University of Farmington so they could work, said attorneys. But the 130 students were arrested on only civil immigration charges, Detroit Free Press reported.

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The eight arrested are accused of helping enroll the students in exchange for cash, kickbacks, and tuition credits as part of the pay-to-stay scheme.

"Madam, this is regarding the fake university (university of Farmington Michigan) issue". Her husband was a student at the fake university. Indians went solo in the Farmington scam, and it still didn't work.

"Don't worry, we know you can't name them", one agent is said to have told the student.

"Rather their intent was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization under the CPT (Curricular Practical Training) programme", it said.

The indictment, filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of MI, said the students knew the scheme was illegal.

The school targeted legal immigrants who wanted to stay in the country past their visa or those who wanted to re-enter the country so they could work. Undercover Homeland Security agents were working as university officials from 2017, tracking down and identifying alleged violators. The fake university was opened by Homeland Security investigations to trap those involved in illegal student visa racket.

In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "We are aware about this incident".

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