130 students arrested in visa sting face only civil immigration charges

Those students who knowingly participated in scam knowing it was not a genuine academic programme face deportation

Those students who knowingly participated in scam knowing it was not a genuine academic programme face deportation

The students had enrolled themselves with a fake university established by the Homeland Security department as part of a covert operation to identify immigration violators.

Indian news reports say as many as 129 Indian nationals were among those arrested in a sting by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this month.

"Each of the foreign citizen who enrolled and made tuition payments to the university knew that they would not attend accrual classes, earn credits or make progress towards an actual degree in a particular field of study - a pay to stay scheme", the indictment said.

An official with ICE said the students involved in this case had come to the USA legally to study at universities, but then transferred to the University of Farmington after they arrived in order to work, the Detroit Free Press said. Officials from the Indian embassy and consulates in the U.S. visited several detention centres and about 30 students have so far been contacted by consular officers. We got these two.

Indian Mission and Consulates have visited several detention centres throughout the U.S.to extend consular assistance to detained students.

Ministry of External Affairs has said that Government continues to closely monitor and take proactive measures to address the situation arising out of the detention of several Indian students in connection with their enrollment in a fraudulent university in the United States.

A post on the official Facebook page of the ATA said, "Beginning in 2015, the university was part of a federal law enforcement undercover operation created to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud".

The university of Farmington was set up by undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security to expose immigration fraud. "These suspects aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the United States illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not", Steve Francis, the HSI special agent in charge, said in the statement on January 30.

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China, India and South Korea together sent 56.1 per cent of all worldwide students in the United States in 2017-18, an annual survey by the Institute of global Education showed past year.

It goes on to allege that each student knew the university's programmes were not approved by Homeland Security and that it was illegal. "By Monday we will have access to nearly all our students", Mr Shringla said.

The ATA said that the news was brought to its attention by the affected students and their friends and that the association's legal and local teams in various cities swung into action for guidance and help.

Michael Sofo, an attorney in Atlanta with Mannan and Associates, said based on what he has heard about the students, it's "not been the case" that they were knowingly participating in an illegal operation.

The number is expected to increase further, as ICE officials continue with their nationwide crackdown on Indian students enrolled in this fake university while working at different places.

The association, according to Detroit Free Press, confirmed that about 100 students had been arrested and others were facing arrest warrants.

They collectively profited in excess of a $250,000, the agency said. "By Monday we will have access to nearly all our students", he added.

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