Indian students arrested in USA

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 arrests were made by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a series of late-night and pre-dawn raids. The helpline numbers are: +1-202-322-1190 and +1-202-340-2590 and email is: cons3.washington@mea.gov.in.

The fake institution was called The University of Farmington.

The Indian Embassy in Washington has also opened a round-the-clock helpline for assistance and queries related to detention of Indian students by the United States authorities, an External Affairs Ministry release said on Saturday.

The Indian government has asked the US Department of Homeland Security for a list of all the detained Indian students and a formal request has been placed for providing consular access to them.

The report states that these 8 student recruiters were arrested after the USA agencies used a fake college, the University of Farmington as part of their undercover operation to identify these recruiters, who never knew that the university was under U.S. agencies vigil and the students who were enrolled by them.

Those arrested, according to the document, "helped at least 600 foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States and actively recruited them to enroll in a fraudulent school as part of a pay-to-stay scheme".

Three indictments, unsealed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of MI in Detroit, charged eight individuals of Indian origin with recruiting students (the Detroit Free Press had reported that number to be around 600) to keep their immigration status in the U.S. valid and provide them with work permits by abusing the F-1 student visa scheme and associated curricular practical training (CPT) opportunities.

A similar step was taken in 2011 when dozens of Indian students were detained for being enrolled in the sham "Tri-Valley University" in Pleasanton, California. US Embassy has also confirmed the same. The National Human Rights Commission had even submitted a representation to the external affairs ministry, pointing out how it amounted to violation of the students' human rights.

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India has been seeking consular access to these students since Wednesday when they got arrested by the US Department of Homeland Security.

"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", Special Agent in charge Steve Francis said this week.

India has said that its Embassy and Consulates in the United States attach "the highest priority to the welfare of the detained students" and "will continue to work with the US authorities and other stakeholders to address the issue".

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy here has appointed a nodal officer here to help the students in distress.

The website of the fake university has been closed by government officials.

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.

"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.

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