Fake US university
129 students arrested
- 01 February 2019
- 17 Comments
A website for the University of Farmington showed pictures of students in classes and libraries, or relaxing around an ideal grassy campus. It advertised tuition for undergraduates at $8,500 (£6,500) a year and $11,000 a year for graduate students. It also had a fake Facebook page with a calendar of events!
But court papers released last week showed that although it was advertised as being based in Michigan state, the "campus" was an office at a business park in a Detroit suburb and was in fact run by undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security to expose "pay-to-stay" immigration fraud.
A total of 130 students - including 129 from India - were arrested on Wednesday and charged with civil immigration charges, the Detroit Free Press reported. The students face possible deportation if convicted. Separately, eight people who allegedly acted as recruiters were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and "harbouring aliens for profit".
The Indian government said the students could have been tricked into enrolling. Some immigration advocates in the US also believe innocent foreigners were trapped by the government.The US embassy in Delhi confirmed it had received the note of protest but made no further statement. Meanwhile a telephone hotline for worried relatives of those being held has been set up at the Indian embassy in Washington, the Times of India reported.
US immigration authorities have resorted to increasingly tough enforcement tactics in recent years. In a precedent to the latest sting, immigration agents set up the fake University of Northern New Jersey in 2016 under the Obama administration. A total of 21 people, mostly from China and India, were arrested. Over the past two years, the Trump administration has further clamped down on undocumented migrants with workplace raids and hundreds of arrests.