ICE Agents Set Up Fake University
According to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, eight people were indicted for conspiracy to commit visa fraud for helping enroll students for kickbacks. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested many others who now face deportation. These immigrants entered the U.S. legally on a student visa or employment visa. However, when their student visas were set to expire, they applied to the University of Farmington for student visas to maintain their student status and associated work permits.
The University of Farmington was not a real university as it did not offer courses or have classrooms where students attended school. It did not employ any professors, only a staff of undercover ICE agents. The university was in a small office building in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
The government argued that these students knew that the university would not hold real classes but chose to enroll anyway because they wanted to maintain status to obtain work authorizations. Therefore, the government argued that these students were staying in the U.S. without proper authorization. According to the law, if an individual maintained legal status, they are compliant. However, in a situation where an immigrant’s visa is expiring, maintaining legal status is complicated.
The Department of Homeland Security set up the University of Farmington in 2015. The government wanted to target foreign students who would stay in the United States without proper authorization. The Department went to great lengths to create legitimacy by obtaining accreditation and maintaining a website and Facebook page. It even listed the university as an approved program on its Student and Exchange Visitor Program website. It charged students $100 application fees and thousands in tuition fees.
According to the Department of Justice, government agents may not originate a criminal design, implant the disposition to commit a criminal act in an innocent person’s mind, and then induce commission of the crime so that the government may prosecute. Attorneys for those arrested argue that this is a case of government entrapment.
Students Fear for Their Future
It is not clear how many of those who enrolled knew the University of Farmington was fake. Apparently, students were assured that classes would be held and that they were following immigration laws. Other businesses housed in the same building as the university reported that students would inquire about when school would start and complain about their inability to contact university representatives.
Many students enroll in universities to obtain authorizations to work. Even legitimate universities offer Curricula Practical Training (CPT), which allows students to obtain work permits if it determines that the work is integral to the course or degree. However, the University of Farmington case has made many international students mistrust other universities that also offer CPT for fear that the U.S. government will find their actions illegal to stay in the U.S.
Philadelphia Immigration Attorneys at the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. Help Immigrants with Visa Issues
Any stay in the U.S. without legal status may be considered an overstay, which may bar re-entry into the U.S. Do not hesitate to contact a Philadelphia immigration attorney at the Law Offices of Tahir Mella, P.C. today. Call our office at 215-496-0690 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.