- Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 90 more students who enrolled in a fake university set up by federal authorities in an immigration sting, the Detroit Free Press reported on Wednesday.
- As first reported in January, hundreds of foreign nationals were arrested after enrolling in the University of Farmington, a fake college the Department of Homeland Security established to apprehend people committing immigration fraud.
- The Free Press reported that since then, an estimated 250 students, many of whom came from India, had lost their visas and been arrested on charges of immigration and visa fraud.
- Federal authorities created the university as a component of “Operation Paper Chase” in 2015, part of a wider crackdown on illegal immigration and visa fraud.
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 90 more students who enrolled in a fake university set up by federal authorities as part of an immigration bust, the Detroit Free Press reported on Wednesday.
As The Detroit News first reported in January, hundreds of foreign students were arrested after enrolling in the University of Farmington, a fake college the Department of Homeland Security established as part of a sting operation to apprehend and prosecute people committing visa and immigration fraud.
The Free Press reported that since then, an estimated 250 students, many of whom came from India, had lost their visas and been arrested on charges of immigration and visa fraud.
ICE officials told the outlet that out of the 250 students, “nearly 80% were granted voluntary departure and departed the United States,” while the other 20% had received official deportation orders or were fighting in court to stay in the United States.
Furthermore, the Free Press reported that seven of eight people identified by prosecutors as recruiters for the fake university had pleaded guilty to charges that they facilitated a conspiracy to commit visa fraud by helping nearly 600 students obtain falsified transcripts and records from the university to secure student visas.
The grand-jury indictment filed against six of the people alleged that “the University was being used by foreign citizens as a ‘pay to stay’ scheme which allowed these individuals to stay in the United States as a result of foreign citizens falsely asserting that they were enrolled as full-time students in an approved educational program and that they were making normal progress toward completion of the course of study.”
Federal authorities created the university as a component of “Operation Paper Chase” in 2015, part of a wider crackdown on illegal immigration and visa fraud.
Authorities created a website with a .edu address and social-media pages advertising the university as an accredited institution charging $8,500 per year in tuition, but it had no physical classrooms or campus and was not accredited.
The Free Press said it obtained emails showing that students paid an average of about $12,000 in tuition and other fees to the fake university, meaning the government likely made millions of dollars in the operation.
Authorities insist the foreign students knew the school was fake
Some critics and immigration advocates have charged that the government’s scheme unfairly entrapped and set up foreign students simply seeking to work legally in the United States, but authorities maintain that nearly all the students arrested in the sting knew the university was fake.
The students’ “true intent could not be clearer,” a federal prosecutor wrote in a sentencing memo for one of the recruiters, the Free Press reported.
“While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services,” the memo continued.
Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, told The Detroit News in January: “It’s creative, and it’s not entrapment. The government can put out the bait, but it’s up to the defendants to fall for it.”
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