Immigration

ICE Scam Leads to Student Deportations 

The latest sting went to elaborate lengths to target students themselves instead of illicit pay-to-stay visa mills.

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More than 250 foreign students have been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a sting operation against "pay-to-stay visa mills"—fake universities that handle transcripts and paperwork so that foreign students can maintain their visa status without actually attending college.

But sources connected to the students say the operation, which involved ICE setting up its own fake university, lured in a number of students who had done nothing wrong. Some of those students were even tricked into quitting legitimate schools in favor of the feds' fake university. Meanwhile, real visa mills—the operation's supposed target—remain unaffected.

The latest chapter in the story began in 2015, when ICE decided to crack down on visa mills. The agency created the University of Northern New Jersey, a fake college that held no classes and offered no instruction. If students paid recruiters between $3,000 and $12,000, they could "enroll" and show that they were taking the course load needed to satisfy the requirements of their F-1 student visas and, more importantly, to obtain Curricular Practical Training (CPT) status.

Usually, F-1 recipients are limited to 20 hours of weekly on-campus employment. But CPT status allows those who have completed one year of academic work to take jobs off campus if the work is integral to their area of study. For instance, nursing students who need practical training to complete the requirements for their degrees can work in a hospital and get paid for it.

The New York Times reported in 2016 that some University of Northern New Jersey students genuinely didn't know what they were getting into. Many students had obtained jobs but didn't win an H-1B visa in the annual lottery, which gets twice as many applicants as there are visas handed out each year. So the CPT became a stopgap way of obtaining work status until they could try again for an H-1B.

The sensible policy response would have been for Congress to raise or scrap the annual H-1B cap so that foreign students with job offers are assured of work authorization. This would instantly throw all the visa mills out of business. But given the enthusiasm for enforcement, ICE decided to play detective via elaborate stings.

The 2015 New Jersey sting resulted in over 1,000 students losing their visas and being thrown out of the country. But according to Rahul Reddy, a Texas attorney who specializes in employment-based immigration law, the primary targets were professional recruiters acting as middlemen between students and fraudulent universities.

ICE's latest sting, which started just as the University of Northern New Jersey one was wrapping up, is different. This time, Reddy insists, the agency went to elaborate lengths to target students themselves.

In 2016, ICE created the University of Farmington, which was physically located on Northwestern Highway in Southeast Michigan—a major commercial thoroughfare with doctor's offices, real estate companies, restaurants, and more. Its website billed the now-disbanded university as a STEM school offering various graduate degrees and claimed it had a history dating back to the 1950s. Notably, it also claimed that the school was Students and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) approved, referring to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) list of all the schools that immigration authorities recognize. Separately, ICE enlisted an accreditation agency to list the school on its website, according to the Detroit Free Press' Niraj Warikoo, who also found that the university was incorporated by Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

All this meant that a foreign student who looked at the university website would have had no reason to suspect that it was an illicit visa mill. ICE even coordinated with DHS to ensure that the enrolled students would show up on the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a federal database that lists all foreign students in good standing with immigration authorities. For foreign students looking for an American education, SEVIS is the ultimate seal of official approval.

With all this architecture in place, ICE agents impersonating university officials started recruiting students by offering them cheaper courses and quicker processing of their CPT status, says Jay Talluri, president of the Telugu Association of North America, an Indo-American group. Undercover ICE officials also offered a hefty commission to students, mostly from India, who recruited their friends. In all, it managed to enroll 600 people.

Accepting the commission was clearly illegal, since the terms of the F-1 visa bar foreign students from working off-campus for pay, especially in areas unrelated to their studies. But ICE didn't spare those on the other end of those recruitment efforts, either. It terminated the SEVIS authorization of everyone enrolled in the University of Farmington on the evening of January 29, 2019. Early the next morning, it started making house arrests.

By December, 250 people had been snagged. (The rest of the student body has likely fled the country.) About 80 percent of the 250 arrestees were granted "voluntary" departure and banned from the United States for many years. Another 10 percent are being deported. The rest are contesting their removal orders.

ICE claimed in its indictment that "each of the foreign citizens who 'enrolled' and made 'tuition' payments to the University" knew that the program was "not approved by the DHS" and was "illegal." This is simply not true. The university was listed as accredited on state and federal sites. Moreover, the DHS gave enrollees SEVIS authorization, which should not have been possible if it weren't an authorized school.

Indeed, Warikoo notes that some of the students jumped to the University of Farmington from schools that had lost accreditation for any number of reasons. They likely thought switching would allow them to fulfill their visa requirements. (It's hard to say for sure, because none of the students are talking to the press.) Others actually tried to transfer out of the University of Farmington when they realized that it was not holding classes and they were making no progress toward their diplomas. But ICE has not spared them either.

Even more troubling is that ICE actually lured some students from legitimate universities with promises of cheaper courses. Foreign students are particularly vulnerable to such pitches, because their options to work and pay for their education are severely restricted by visa rules. Hence, many rely on families back home for support and are always on the lookout for ways to reduce the burden on their loved ones. ICE collected millions of dollars in fees from these students, Warikoo reported, and won't say whether it has any intention of reimbursing them. (ICE did not respond to requests for comment for this story.)

The fundamental question is what the government hoped to accomplish with this elaborate scheme. Even from a pure enforcement standpoint, wouldn't it make more sense to go after existing visa mills rather than launching new fake institutions? Instead of turning students into recruiters by throwing temptation in their way, ICE could have gone after professional recruiters. Nothing the agency has done so far has put a single illegitimate university out of business.

NEXT: Brickbat: Expensive Lesson

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  1. They’ve learned from the FBI – it’s hard work catching real criminals, much easier to catch criminals you’ve created yourself.

  2. The 2015 New Jersey sting resulted in over 1,000 students losing their visas and being thrown out of the country.

    A good start, Only 15 million more to go. Illegal aliens need to leave our country.

    1. Did you read the article? They had visas… Der TrumpfenFuhrer and Minions had given them permission to be here (many of them on still-valid visas). Here is the summary except from above, about this matter…

      “…lured in a number of students who had done nothing wrong.”

      Also this, if you can be bothered to read that many words:

      “ICE claimed in its indictment that “each of the foreign citizens who ‘enrolled’ and made ‘tuition’ payments to the University” knew that the program was “not approved by the DHS” and was “illegal.” This is simply not true. The university was listed as accredited on state and federal sites. Moreover, the DHS gave enrollees SEVIS authorization, which should not have been possible if it weren’t an authorized school.”

      Deliberately lying to people in order to get them to do “evil” (however slight), so that you can then PUNISH them, is itself, evil! Very evil!

      Doing this kind of fucked-up shit is NOT going to help USA academia, USA’s economy, or the USA’s relationships with the rest of the world!

      1. Right, but you eat shit. You told us that.

        1. (this is where he freaks out and spams up the thread because he’s embarrassed that he admitted he wants to eat shit)

        2. Wastes of life have nothing better to do with their lives, than to troll, with lies!

          Liar! Liars are like sand fleas around here… Just covering the place!
          https://reason.com/2019/09/15/outgrowing-addiction/#comments
          SQRLSY One
          September.15.2019 at 4:21 pm
          Right along with my urges to eat shit and then barf. Fortunately, I strangle these thoughts in their crib. Too bad that no one thought of doing that with Tulpa… But that would be “pre-crime” punishment, which I generally do NOT subscribe to!
          End original quote.
          An attempt at humor. I don’t REALLY have urges to eat poop. And having an URGE to eat poop is NOT the same thing as eating poop, except in the eyes of total liars!
          Ever have an urge to kill some asshole? Then you are a MURDERER, according to your type of lying!

          1. Called it, embarrassed shit eater SQRLSY spams up the thread.

          2. “SQRLSY One
            September.15.2019 at 4:21 pm
            Right along with my urges to eat shit”

            AHAHAHAHA HE KEEPS THINKNG THAT ADMITTING IT MAKES HIM LOOK LESS DISGUSTING AHAHAHAHAHAHAH

            HIHN ADMITTED HE WANTS TO EAT SHIT AGAIN AHAHAHAHAHAAHAH

            1. Too bad that no one thought of doing that with Tulpa

              And THEN HE CALLS FOR THE MURDER OF A BABY, BUT CALLS OTHER PEOPLE EVIL AHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA

              SHIT EATER IS AN EVIL BABY MURDERER TOO AHAHHAHAHAAJAJA

            2. You’re too stupid to debate the political issues, and too evil to debate the ethical issues. All you can do, literally, is to talk shit! And you eat TrumpfenFuhrer shit for breakfast every day, hypocrite!

              Vile-Troll Trumpsucker,,
              Please listen!
              You don’t know,
              What you’re missing!
              Donald’s ass, don’t be kissin’!
              Trump won’t love you,
              He’ll push and shove you!
              He’ll take your vote,
              Then call you a goat!
              He’ll tax your money,
              Then steal your Honey!
              Your pussy, He will grab,
              Your back, He will stab!
              His-victims-routines, He’s iterating,
              Shit about YOU, He’ll be Twitterating!

              1. Aahahahahah

                YOU WANT TO MURDER BABIES AND EAT SHIT IT’S IN YOUR QUOTE AHAHAAHHAH

                YOU ADMIT IT AHHAAHAHAHAHA

          3. It is entirely believable that you have urged to eat shit, and further, that you indulge these urges. Perhaps frequently. We now have video evidence of you proclivities……..

            https://www.infowars.com/horror-homeless-man-eats-own-feces-at-san-fran-bus-stop/

            Just admit it. You’re a clinically deranged fecalphilliac.

      2. Trump was president in 2015?

        1. I doubt SQLRSY has any idea, since he was face down in a plate of shit ahahahhh

        2. Learn to read! In 2015, deceptive “educators” were targeted, NOT innocent students! Trumpbot Trumpsucker!

          “The 2015 New Jersey sting resulted in over 1,000 students losing their visas and being thrown out of the country. But according to Rahul Reddy, a Texas attorney who specializes in employment-based immigration law, the primary targets were professional recruiters acting as middlemen between students and fraudulent universities.

          ICE’s latest sting, which started just as the University of Northern New Jersey one was wrapping up, is different. This time, Reddy insists, the agency went to elaborate lengths to target students themselves.”

          1. Right, but you want to murder babies and eat shit.

          2. “…….. maintain their visa status without actually attending college.”

            “But sources connected to the students…….”

            Students? Wait, what?

            Haha.

        3. spend some time chatting with sexinlinz ladies and have fun

      3. “”Deliberately lying to people in order to get them to do “evil” (however slight), so that you can then PUNISH them, is itself, evil! Very evil!””

        Isn’t that pretty much all government sting operations?

        1. Sure it is! Good judgment required, is all… As in so many human affairs.

          Busting people who do murder-for-hire? Stings there? Bring it ON! OK by me!

          Pot smoking! Ha, bullshit! At the logical extreme, undercover police-lady shoves a pillow up her tummy-clothes, screams and yells by the roadside, emits colored water from her bottom, yells for passer-by car driver to pick her up and SPEED her to the hospital! Then busts the doing-good, benevolent speeder!

          It is clearly all very much context-dependant…

          1. But the government doesn’t listen to you. When you allow it a mechanism, it’s going to what it wishes with that mechanism. Maybe the courts will stop them, maybe not.

        2. No.

          Most stings go after people who are already doing evil.

          This one went after people who were just trying to live within the system that spawned it. THAT is what’s evil.

      4. I’m trying to think of an equivalent in any other specialty of law enforcement wherein one might try to “catch” people committing a violation that they would have no reason to think was a violation.

        Could you open a retail store, get it into the BBB, manufacture good Yelp or Yahoo reviews for it going back years, then stock it with stolen goods that were kept by the government, and then “catch” patrons buying stolen goods?

        How about that accreditation agency? Were they knowing or unknowing conspirators with ICE in this endeavor? How’s their reputation now?

        1. I see Cyto downthread had a better analog.

      5. Did you read the article? This whole scam was an OBAMA Administration idea. Blaming it on Trump is stupid.

    2. Der TrumpfenFuhrer, and many-many ICE employees and Trumpbots in general, have IMMENSE punish-punish-PUNISH boners! If they have to LIE THEIR ASSES OFF, in order to jerk off their punishment boners, they will do so in a heartbeat!

      Punish-punish-punish! Personally, I think that punishment should be strictly reserved for only those who cannot otherwise be corrected, and then, “the punishment should fit the crime”. What is needed, and then no more, as far as the severity of the punishment goes. Even criticism is punishment, and it, too, should be carefully rationed.
      What have very varied thinkers through the years said about this?
      “Beware of all those in whom the urge to punish is strong.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
      “Mistrust all those in whom the desire to punish is imperative.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
      “Let he who is without sin, throw the first stone.” – Jesus

      1. Right but you eat shit.

      2. “”“Beware of all those in whom the urge to punish is strong.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
        “Mistrust all those in whom the desire to punish is imperative.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe”

        Wasn’t this the reason to not vote for Harris?

        I agree with those quotes. Also note that’s a big part of what government does.

      3. It’s not a “punishment” to remove people from the US who have no right to be here.

        They have to go back.

        1. Idiots, like SQRLSY One think it is punishment for anyone to live anywhere but in the US.
          It is not punishment to simply be allowed to reverse your action, without any kind of fine or imprisonment, when you commit a crime.
          Deportation is nothing but returning the situation to what it was, before the crime was committed.

    3. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Jesus

      1. WWJD? Vomit. Because you told us ypu eat shit.

    4. They have to go back.

    5. (You think you) need illegal aliens to leave MY country.

      Sorry about your need. I don’t share it. And it’s MY country as much as it is yours.

      1. You have your opportunity to effect a change in the laws about illegal aliens, every two years.
        You have failed to make that change and the laws remain in place that say they must leave.
        If you don’t like what “your” country is doing, you can easily leave and go somewhere that welcomes illegal aliens.

        1. He’s probably an illegal himself. Not an American at all.

  3. Absolutely heartbreaking.

    Fortunately ICE will be abolished in less than a year. Because a Democrat — probably Joe Biden — will win the next Presidential election and immediately begin implementing the Koch / Reason open borders agenda.

    #VoteBidenForOpenBorders

      1. You just got taken in by a parody account. ICE isn’t going anywhere.

  4. So, they fell for the scam?
    Not the “best and brightest” in other words.

    1. When the scam is described as honest by the government, there is a certain credibility given.

      i.e., Social Security.

  5. Oh my… I couldn’t believe what i’ve been just read.. For real how could they even done something like this? It just blown my mind..

  6. “The sensible policy response would have been for Congress to raise or scrap the annual H-1B cap so that foreign students with job offers are assured of work authorization. This would instantly throw all the visa mills out of business. But given the enthusiasm for enforcement, ICE decided to play detective via elaborate stings.”

    Democracy is such a pain in the neck to elitists.

    1. The H1b visa problem has been going on for more than 2 decades. We probably need to raise the quotas by 10x. Those are the people we want coming in… but unfortunately there are workers who make really good money who don’t want them coming in. It keeps them in high demand and keeps their salaries high.

      It was terrible back in the late 90’s / early aughts. Finding high quality tech workers was really tough. And low quality tech workers were not at all happy about some brainiac from India coming in and supplanting them. As an employer, I wanted the A player. We hired a few C players in that stretch and it was rough.

      That’s one of the difficulties with evaluating this situation. Who do you protect? How do you balance those needs?

      I personally don’t think that we should be forced to use “programmer/analysts” who are trained in how to do the mechanics, but don’t have the talent to do high end work. The other workers shouldn’t have to deal with the fallout from that either. I mean, we wouldn’t put up with having NBA or NFL teams limited in the players they could hire, if there were hundreds of more talented players available elsewhere. We’d want the best.

      Engineering, programming, etc. are fields that are in high demand and require a level of talent, not just some skills training. I think we would all be wealthier as a country if we placed emphasis on getting the best rather than protecting the salaries of the worst.

      1. It sucks that you may have to train Americans to do work that foreigners can do, but it is a burden on the US taxpayer to have to support those put out of work by your hiring of non-Americans.
        Blame an education system, fully supported by the very people who want the borders opened, for giving you workers unskilled to the level produced by third-world nations.
        Americans aren’t inherently more untalented than foreigners. They just need a better education, of the kind you find in backward countries. Ones that don’t spend more time in school, learning that “Heather has Two Mommies”, you are the gender that you “feel” or about how “climate change” is an existential threat to the planet, than they do the three “R’s”.

    2. Naturally the “sensible” plan to Shikha is Open Borders.

  7. If this bit about the government created fake school actually being listed in the accreditation databases is true, then I really don’t see how the government has a case.

    This is like “catching” a jewelry store for selling fake Rolexes… by setting up a Rolex distributorship and having Rolex list it as an official Rolex distributor. Then, when they pay the full wholesale price for a batch of Rolex watches, arresting them for buying counterfeit watches.

    Of course, I suppose being right really doesn’t help all that much after you are tossed in jail and quickly deported.

    1. Because entrapment doesn’t seem to mean what it use to.

  8. Hey–you guys can’t have coronapanic AND open borders!

    You’re bleating for two contradictory things!!

    1. “Logical consistency is a social construct of the white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy used to oppress marginalized peoples.”

  9. “Some of those students were even tricked into quitting legitimate schools in favor of the feds’ fake university.”

    Yeah I’m gonna need a cite for this.

    1. Statements like this make the story of innocents lured into breaking the law unwittingly less believable not more. Now the storyteller has to explain why someone in a legit college that taught real classes decided to transfer. Transferring is a lot of effort and paperwork, what could possibly be so alluring about the new fake college with zero reputation that could make someone want to transfer there that isn’t the obvious answer of wanting to scam the Visa system.

      1. It was explained: to save money by enrolling in a cheaper school.

      2. The school claimed to have been operating since the 1950s, and it was given top accreditation.

        Transferring is not that difficult. For foreign students, the major headache is ICE approval — which we can pretty much figure was no obstacle here.

        “What could be alluring?” Go talk to a student from the Third World. Ask them how they are being supported. Even a hundred bucks a month might make the difference between ramen 3 nights a week and 7 nights a week. Or staying in school vs. going home in the third year.

        Note that some students, upon discovering that there were no actually classes, tried to get back to real schools, but “were not spared.” In other words, they were drawn in by lies, then punished TWICE for believing the lies — the first time being when they sent their money for nothing.

        1. Everything is so terrible and unfair.

        2. Still sounds like bullshit. And this IS a Shikha article. She is a lying idiot. So no, her claims are suspect at best.

  10. The agency created the University of Northern New Jersey, a fake college that held no classes and offered no instruction.

    So they replicated Trenton State College? And Kean College (aka TSC by the Sea)?

  11. I remember when HyR first covered this story, but the details make it even worse:

    Undercover ICE officials also offered a hefty commission to students, mostly from India, who recruited their friends…. Accepting the commission was clearly illegal, since the terms of the F-1 visa bar foreign students from working off-campus for pay,

    Taking a cash incentive for referring friends is considered “work”?

    1. It’s reportable income.

  12. Good. Stop giving school slots and jobs to people who don’t intend to live here. Promote from within, even if our own people aren’t the best or the brightest. Stop whoring out our prosperity to the world.

    1. Also, since you’re unsure of why we aren’t targeting visa mills directly, there are two sides to every transaction; supply and demand. You could go after visa mills, or you could remove their supply of foreign students who use their services.

      It’s the same logic behind criminalizing individual drug use.

  13. I hate this sting operations.

    Wasn’t there a story here a few years back where the FBI would ensure autistic kids to get them to deal or something? I forget the details.

    Evil and pointless shit.

  14. If you’re enrolled in a university which does not have academic expectations, you know you’re part of a scam. You might not know the details of the scam, but you know it’s a scam. And if that scam is advancing your immigration status, you know that’s criminal.

    1. Note that the “punishment” for their crime is simply removing them from the US, where they have no right to be.

      There are billions of people around the world who have no right to be in the US, and aren’t. They’ve joined them.

  15. Shikha is having a sad.

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  17. “ICE claimed in its indictment that “each of the foreign citizens who ‘enrolled’ and made ‘tuition’ payments to the University” knew that the program was “not approved by the DHS” and was “illegal.” This is simply not true. The university was listed as accredited on state and federal sites. Moreover, the DHS gave enrollees SEVIS authorization, which should not have been possible if it weren’t an authorized school.”

    So based on the FISA precedent, these ICE guys are going away for a long time because they lied on official documents, right?

  18. Of course, we could reduce the number of illegals by 100% if we offer full citizenship to any illegal who rats out four other illegals for deportation.
    Problem solved.
    Next question?

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