‘They Were Aware of Their Crime’: Indian Students Held in US Visa Scam Face Deportation, Blacklisting

CNN-News18
The US State Department has said that the students were aware that they were committing a crime to fraudulently remain in the US. The authority further stated, that the students may have been duped initially but went on to become complicit at some stage.

New Delhi: All 130 foreign students, including 129 Indians who were detained for enrolling in the fake Farmington University, are now likely to face deportation and will be blacklisted.

What could be worse is that if they are sent back – it could take a few years before they could return to the US on a visa.

A source told News18 that applying for visas will be futile, as the record of being associated with Farmington University on their database, will be a major ‘red flag’.

The foreign students were detained last week by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for enrolling at the University of Farmington allegedly to remain in America. Eight have been arrested for recruiting several hundred students mostly from India to stay illegally in the US.

The fake university was set up by the DHS's investigating unit in Greater Detroit area to bust the "pay-and-stay" racket.

"All participants in this scheme knew that the University of Farmington had no instructors or classes (neither on-line nor in-person) and were aware they were committing a crime in an attempt to fraudulently remain in the United States," a State Department spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

The State Department’s response came a day after the Ministry of External Affairs of India issued a rare demarche to the US Embassy in New Delhi on February 2, demanding “an immediate consular access for Indian officials to the detainees.” It also said that India was concerned about the “dignity and well-being of the detained student.”

Till Saturday, consular officers had been able to contact 30 Indian students.

According to sources, India’s demand for a consular access was legitimate on the grounds that it has been facilitated for students who are willing to avail it. The lawyers representing the students have appraised them of their right to consular access to Indian officials - but at the same time added that US authorities cannot force students against their will.

Meanwhile, Indian authorities have questioned the modus operandi of the US government, saying that authorities must draw a distinction between “trapping of innocent students, who may have been duped” from those who consciously committed the fraud.

However, the US State Department has said that the students were aware that they were committing a crime to fraudulently remain in the US. The authority further stated, that the students may have been, perhaps, duped initially.

However, they went on to become complicit at some stage because despite knowing that there were no classes or even an online course for distance learning, they continued to be enrolled.

The students who were taken into administrative custody after eight recruiters were arrested were presented before an immigration court where they pleaded not guilty.

The University of Farmington advertised itself as a ‘nationally accredited business and STEM institution located in Metro Detroit.’ It also boasted of an innovative curriculum that combines ‘traditional instruction and distance learning with fulltime professional experiences.’ However, it turned out to be a trap laid by authorities to catch visa fraud.