ICE organizes fake university to capture immigrant scammers: victims accuse agency of deceit
Immigration and Customs Control (ICE) agents used a fake university to identify and capture immigrants who tricked themselves into obtaining student visas to the United States. Of course, all this was undercover, but the students claim that they did not have fraudulent intentions - they were simply deceived, writes Vox.
The ICE has arrested about 250 students at The University of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan for violating their visa requirements that require them to study on a full-time basis at a federal accredited educational institution.
The University of Farmington, which ICE agents created in 2015 in order to weed out scammers, did not meet the requirements of the visa program, since it was not a real educational institution. The so-called university did not have teachers, curricula, or other educational activities.
According to the prosecutor, the basis of advertising a false university was the slogan that he is a ticket for an F-1 student visa. All students had to pay only 3500 dollars per quarter for this, which is cheaper than in most American colleges.
Students with an F-1 visa can legally stay in the United States while studying and travel freely outside the country. After graduation, these students have the right to apply for a H-1B skilled worker visa if an American employer offers them a job.
President Donald Trump’s administration has tried to deal with various forms of visa fraud, and student visas are no exception. To identify fraudsters, the administration used a strategy to create fake universities.
In 2016, another fake university, The University of Northern New Jersey, hit the headlines. Then the authorities canceled the visas of more than 1000 students and charged 21 to the intermediary.
But now the ICE is facing increased attention, some people even called for the abolition of the agency completely, so the news about the fake university caused outrage in society.
The question is whether fake universities were really effective in combating fraud. Lawyers for affected students say these operations are a trap, designed to make poorly informed foreign students pay thousands of dollars to the university, not being able to find out that their actions are actually illegal.
It is also not clear at the moment how ICE uses millions of dollars received from students applying to fake universities.
How the circuit worked
ICE undercover agents touted The University of Farmington on its now defunct website. The emphasis was on business and STEM.
“Located in the heart of southeast Michigan's automotive and advanced manufacturing center, The University of Farmington provides students from all over the world with a unique educational experience. Our dynamic business management program and STEM allows students to quickly apply their knowledge; prepares them for success in a constantly globalizing economy, ”the site said.
At the same time, ICE approved The University of Farmington with its seal, and DHS ranked it as an approved institution on its website.
Immigration services also offered rewards to those who campaigned for immigrant students to enter the university. These recruiters are now criminally charged for registering nearly 600 students between February 2017 and January 2019, according to indictments filed with the Michigan Federal Court. These recruiters directly told students that they should not advertise their admission to The University of Farmington, because the university did not have the appropriate certification.
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Students claim they were tricked, but ICE says they should have thought
Students at the fake university claim that they are foreigners, because they did not know that they violated the conditions of visas. Some students were even arrested after they found out that the university was shell, and decided to transfer to another institution. Now they are facing deportation from the United States.
According to the ICE representative, almost 80% of students arrested by the ICE under this scheme were given the opportunity to voluntarily leave the country. Others were deported or they filed claims contesting the deportation.
The ICE argues that the university was a fake institution to obtain a student visa in a fraudulent way, it should have been obvious.
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“Every foreign citizen who 'enrolled' and 'paid' for university education knew he would not attend any real class, earn points, or make academic progress towards an actual degree in a particular field of study,” the indictment says. "Most likely, their goal was to fraudulently retain student status and obtain permission to work in the United States."
Carisa Catrell, an ICE spokeswoman, said fake universities act as a deterrent to scammers who can use the student visa system and provide insight into how fraud occurs.
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