A fake college Immigration and Customs Enforcement set up has led to the apprehension of over 200 foreign nationals attempting to commit visa fraud.
The Department of Homeland Security apprehended roughly 250 foreign nationals who enrolled or recruited students in the University of Farmington, a bogus Detroit-area college ICE created to catch foreign students circumventing U.S. immigration laws, ICE confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation Wednesday.
The Detroit Free Press first reported on the University of Farmington’s undercover operation.
“These students were initially admitted into the United States to attend a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, but later transferred to the University of Farmington, which offered no academic or vocational programs of any kind. Since the school did not offer courses or confer degrees, the enrollees were simply using the F-1 program as a pay-to-stay scheme,” read an ICE statement to the DCNF.
Authorities maintain the students were aware Farmington was not a legitimate university.
At first glance to prospective students, the school’s website appeared like any other college in Michigan. However, Farmington had no curriculum, no teachers, no classes and virtually zero staff. Foreign students enrolled in the school were simply paying tuition in order to maintain their F-1 visas while they worked in the U.S.
The operation highlights the rampant fraud involved with the country’s foreign-student visa program.
F and M visas are nonimmigrant visas given to foreign nationals who wish to study in the United States. These individuals must maintain their nonimmigrant status while living within the country or else be subject to apprehension, detention and ultimately deportation.
Many foreigners on an F-1 visa will go to great lengths to maintain their status.
“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,” assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in a sentencing memo earlier in November about the Farmington students.
Of the roughly 250 students apprehended, almost 80 percent were granted voluntary departure from the United States meaning they could leave on their own accord without having a deportation on their record. The remaining 20 percent have either been given a final order of removal or are contesting their removals with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Eight of the recruiters for the school have been criminally charged for their roles.
Arrests of the Farmington “students” took place between January and July, the majority of which took place in mid-February, according to ICE. The vast majority of the students involved are Indian nationals.
“Undercover schools provide a unique perspective in understanding the ways in which students and recruiters try to exploit the nonimmigrant student visa system. It provides DHS with first-hand evidence of fraud and enhances its understanding of the way in which exploitation networks develop to facilitate fraud,” ICE said in a statement.
“In addition, this type of operation serves as deterrent to potential violators and as a reminder to all nonimmigrant students to be vigilant in complying with the pertinent laws while studying in the United States.”
Students shelled out thousands of dollars a quarter to be enrolled in the school. The Department of Homeland Security is believed to have accumulated millions of dollars from the scheme.
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