We already know ICE can’t find enough dangerous immigrants to satisfy President Trump’s absurd fantasies of a nation overrun by foreign murderers, rapists, and terrorists. But it appears the agency has completely given up on its “worst of the worst” targeting. According to an unsealed indictment and recently-released ICE emails, the agency blew a lot of man hours and taxpayer money on rounding up [squints at court documents] immigrants attempting to further their educations.
The Department of Homeland Security set up a fake university in Farmington Hills to target foreign students who wanted to stay in the U.S. without proper authorization, according to federal indictments unsealed in Detroit on Wednesday.
Eight people were arrested and indicted in an immigration fraud case for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit, said the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider.
Six of them were arrested in metro Detroit, one in Florida and another in Virginia. The students enrolled at the fake university with the intent to obtain jobs under a student visa program called CPT (Curricular Practical Training) that allows students to work in the U.S., said prosecutors.
This is ICE’s take on the arrests. What actually happened here is something bordering on entrapment.
The students seeking to attend the fake university had expiring visas. They were allowed to stay in the US and work as long as they continued their education. As long as these students continued working towards approved degrees, they were allowed to stay in the country. A limited supply of H-1B visas means attending school or exiting the country for most of the immigrants involved.
The government portrays this as “staying in the US without proper authorization.” But the university offered proper authorization under this immigration program. Rather than do nothing and sweep up students whose visas were expired, ICE decided to set up a bogus university as a honeypot for foreign students working against the clock to get their stays extended.
The emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press show an ugly, calculated move by ICE to both rob immigrants of their money and their chance to stay in the United States. The agency went so far as to obtain bogus accreditation from a national accreditation agency in order to better dupe unaware immigrants.
Undercover investigators with the Department of Homeland Security registered the University of Farmington with the state of Michigan as a university using a fake name.
At the request of DHS, a national accreditation agency listed the University of Farmington as being accredited in order to help deceive prospective students.
The university was also placed by federal investigators on the website of ICE as an university approved by them under a government program for foreign students known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Program)
All of this led prospective students to believe they were dealing with a real university offering programs that would allow them to stay, study, and work in the US legally. In addition to taking $100 application fees from over 600 students, ICE also hoovered up an untold amount of tuition fees.
“I was told by the students, that the university reassured them that classes would be held and everything would be fine and that they are following the immigration laws,” said Prashanthi Reddy, an attorney in New York City. “The students paid them the tuition fees and were trapped once they realized that classes were not being held, as some didn’t have the money to transfer and pay tuition at another university.”
Students were told by ICE’s fake university they were complying with immigration laws by applying for continuing education. This was buttressed by the bogus accreditation obtained by the agency. Students thought they were taking the next step to extend their stays in the US — all of it completely legal — until it became apparent the fake university would never be holding classes or handing out degrees.
While there may have been a few people taking advantage of immigrants by either lying to them about their visa status or charging fees to route them into another university, a majority of those swept up in ICE’s sting were following the law. If the government says you can stay and work in the country as long as you continue your education, students applying to ICE’s bogus university were in full compliance. All told, 149 duped students were arrested, but only eight of them are actually facing charges for what’s detailed in the indictment.
This is a horrific abuse of trust — aided and abetted by a national accreditation agency. The government lied repeatedly to people trying to follow the law, took their money, and basically arrested them for failing to figure out it wasn’t a real university.