ICE's Fake College Defrauded Students, Then Deported Them. The Biden Admin Is Defending the Scheme.

The government has pocketed millions of dollars from immigrants who came to the U.S. legally—and has refused to pay them back.


In January 2016, the University of Farmington was born. By 2018, more than 600 students had enrolled, paid tuition, and matriculated. Come January 2019, the entire student body received formal correspondence from the college: The school was not actually a school at all.

It was a ruse, conceived by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and executed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), allegedly to crack down on "visa fraud." Richly ironic is that the fraudulent operations were set up and maintained by the government itself, which duped immigrants into applying for student visas that would then be revoked when the curtain came up on the scheme. In the same letter, the students—who had just found out they were not, in fact, real students—were given one last instruction. They would need to leave the country immediately, or face arrest and deportation.

"I was in complete shock. I didn't understand what to do," says Suraj, whose name has been changed to protect his anonymity. He moved to the U.S. in 2015 to attend Northwestern Polytechnic University, where he earned a degree and nabbed a job as an IT business consultant. With his student visa set to expire, he decided to apply for a master's program, which is when he found Farmington, located in southeast Michigan near where he lived at the time.

He applied and was accepted, shelling out $15,000 in tuition and fees—money that was pocketed by the government. He has not recouped any of those funds.

In September 2020, many such victims filed a lawsuit in federal claims court. The Trump administration sought to dismiss it. In February, the Biden administration took the same position.

Yet President Joe Biden campaigned on making the U.S. immigration system "humane" again. Perhaps the deepest schism on the 2020 campaign trail between then-candidate Biden and former President Donald Trump was on immigration policy—a division the former repeatedly furnished as proof of his upstanding values. Vice President Kamala Harris was very much in agreement. As a presidential candidate herself, she specifically turned her attention to the Farmington debacle:

How things change. In a motion to dismiss filed February 24, the Biden administration claimed sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine that protects the federal government from certain sorts of lawsuits unless they consent to being sued. 

"It might be business as usual to just defend the government, even when the government has done horrible things," says Anna Nathanson, an attorney with the Norris Law Group, who is representing Farmington victims in their class-action suit. "But that's not what's right. That's not what is just. Is that what we can expect from the Biden-Harris administration, this type of abuse of people and the lack of willingness to correct the government's mistakes when the government causes grave harm to people?"

As Shikha Dalmia reported in Reason in 2019, Farmington's operation pulled out all the stops. Its now-defunct website boasted various bachelor's and master's programs, a 10:1 student-faculty ratio, and accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Most importantly, it claimed the university was officially certified by DHS's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)—the stamp of approval that a school is recognized by ICE—leaving people like Suraj little reason to believe that they had applied to a fake college.

"Located in the heart of the automotive and advanced manufacturing center of Southeast Michigan, the University of Farmington provides students from throughout the world a unique educational experience," reads the site. "Our dynamic business administration and STEM curriculum allows students to rapidly apply their knowledge; preparing them to succeed in an ever-globalizing economy. Our education model combines traditional classroom instruction and distributed learning with a cooperative educational experience, including externships, professionally based research, and practical training."

Though Farmington enrollees came to the U.S. on legal student visas—with some even transferring to the college from real universities—all were ordered to leave. About 250 of those students have since been arrested in connection with the fake school. While a handful attempted to fight their removals, many have been deported and will face an extreme uphill battle if they ever want to enter the U.S. again. Others voluntarily exited the country in hopes of maximizing a chance of return.

Suraj was one of the latter. "I had so many investments going on," he tells Reason, including a job and a home, which he upped and left the very next day. "Everything came crashing down. I had to start everything from scratch."

Within 24 hours, he was on his way back to India. Curiously, with the exception of one Palestinian individual, every student caught up in the ordeal also came from India. Perhaps there's a reason for that: "The sense I got was that there's some anti-Indian bias at ICE, where they felt that Indian people in general were taking advantage of the student visa program," notes Nathanson. "I think the ICE definition of 'taking advantage of the program' is using the program…I don't know why the response to that is to make a university which looks totally legitimate, and have people pretextually violate the visa program."

Suraj says that he'd like to come back to the U.S. At the very least, however, he'd like his $15,000 back, a financial burden he is still struggling with, notwithstanding the fact that he never received any actual education from the University of Farmington.

Should the victims lose, Nathanson forecasts some dire implications. "They're being crushed by that student debt. A lot of them used their families' savings to pay the Farmington tuition," she says. "It's also pretty devastating emotionally and mentally to be tricked like this. And for some people, they were also physically deported, put through jail, put through detention. Everyone I've spoken to is unfortunately having really severe mental health consequences still. People are really depressed. People tell me this made them suicidal. It's really, really bad."

But the effects of a decision deferential to the government would likely have an impact on far more people than the Farmington students: "It would mean that law enforcement agencies could make any contracts they want and then violate them," adds Nathanson, making it even harder to sue the government and government agents than it already is.

I ask Suraj how this has affected his mental health. Is he one of the students Nathanson alludes to? "Emotionally, I don't know how I can describe it," he answers. "I had planned a future in the U.S." In 2019, he had also planned his present: the job, apartment, and community he was forced to abandon overnight. Suraj won't get that back. But he can still have that future—should the Biden administration choose to live up to its most basic promises.

NEXT: Tina Turner’s Powerhouse Career Recounted in HBO Documentary

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  1. So it opened its doors in January 2016 and ran until January 2019, and in that three years not one of the 600 students noticed they weren’t required to attend a single class or lecture? These aren’t infants, they know they came over on visas that required them to be getting an education from a university. If their university was providing no education whatsoever, they knew they were not doing what they agreed to do when they applied for their visa. It was definitely a honey trap, but the students weren’t tricked into unknowingly violating the law. They knew what they were doing.

    1. These fake colleges have been around for over a decade. The students know full well they are defrauding the visa system.

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      2. Those poor illegals………

    2. That’s my question too. I can’t help but thing that particular aspect was entirely left out because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

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    5. The author could even have argued that these fake universities are an artifact of our dysfunctional immigration laws that force productive people to shell out thousands to crooks for the privilege of contributing to our economy (on top of the taxes they also pay). Instead we just get this fake news.

    6. They purchased a fraud knowing it was a fraud and intending for it to be a fraud.
      If you pay for known stolen merchandise, and it turns out to be a sting operation, do you get a refund? I would think not.

      1. How would they know it was a fraud before they paid their tuition? The US government made sure that their fraudulent college would pass all the normal checks for accreditation, etc.

        Now, the article doesn’t make it clear how the fraud wasn’t discovered when someone tried to go to class and the classrooms didn’t exist. Maybe it’s supposed to be all on-line classes? These are certainly possible to fake – and I can’t think of anything I could do _on-line_ that would clearly distinguish a new legitimate school from a well-done fake. But in any case, colleges collect the tuition and fees first, and classes only come afterwards.

        If a college collected your money and delivered nothing, it would be likely to take over 3 years of legal action to get your money back – but if the fake college was a government operation, there are lots of ways they can derail legal claims so you never even get a hearing, and in the end both Trump’s and Biden’s minions claim they can keep the money under sovereign immunity.

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  2. I stopped coming here for a while. I forgot how infuriatingly blue-pilled this writing staff is. No, the democrats, despite their hyperbolic rhetoric, never intended to actually change how immigration works or to actually help make anyone’s life better. Here’s another list of things they don’t actually intend to fix as demonstrated by the results of decades of unopposed one-party rule in California, New York, Chicago etc.:
    Income inequality, education, poverty, rising housing prices, rising cost of living, police corruption, police brutality, money’s influence over politics, unrestrained invasion of government into people’s lives, racism. That’s just for starters.

    How could you pay attention to politics for more than a month and not realize that political rhetoric is in NO way related to what they ACTUALLY do. They have 24 hours in a day just like everyone else.
    All they have time to do is fund-raise for their next popularity contest that confers upon them immunity from any criminal or civil liability from killing kids overseas or locking as many people in cages for what reason tickles their fancy that day. Oh, and print billions of dollars to hand over to their cronies and hand you a bill with interest.

    You want to call yourself a libertarian, stop acting like a naive prepubescent child and stop taking them seriously.

    1. Well said.

    2. But… but… cocktail parties!

  3. Did anybody respond to kamala asking her if it’s cruel and a wast of taxpay money for a procecuters to falsify confessions, evidence, and witnesses?

    1. Cruel but not unusual so not a constitutional problem.

  4. Surely I want to be sympathetic. But in the past I’ve seen American engineers laid off and replaced by H1B visa employees at lower pay who are tied to that job and cannot leave.

    So visa abuse by students, visa abuse by DHS, and visa abuse by corporations. And Congress dithers instead of fixing the immigration problem.

    1. Fixing it doesn’t afford the same opportunities to enrich the ruling class and the apparatchiks who run the system.

  5. ahahahah you got all the Trump plus Biden you piece of trash, this is your guy so I hope it hurts lololo

    1. #WhenYouVoteBlue

  6. Fake college and deportation?
    You sure that’s ICE, and not Trump University?

    1. Yes, we’re sure. Can you make a case suggesting otherwise?

    2. “You sure that’s ICE, and not Trump University?”

      One more TDS-addled shit.

  7. WTF?!

    Just when I think I’ve seen the shadiest possible fuckmouthed shit gargling taint snorting the feds can pull, they manage to up the ante.

    1. Shady, surely you mean signing up for fake schools to commit visa fraud right?

      1. I’ll admit that this is the first time I’ve heard about any of this, so if you have a link suggesting that this was a pre-existing issue, I’m certainly willing to change my mind on the subject. Going off just this article, the behavior of ICE here seems like some bullshit.

          1. Cool, thanks. “Visa fraud” was… insufficient, as a search term.

          2. Here’s one that isn’t quite so much of a press release from the prosecution:

          3. Here’s another one:

            Appears to be an actual problem. Ok, looks like I got rooked by a Reason half-the-story. Though I’m still a little sketched out by the feds setting up their *own* fake university, instead of rooting out existing ones.

            1. Yeah the implication of this article is that Suraj genuinely believed he was paying for an education, which is laughable. He was paying to stay in this country. Why didn’t the author use the latter to show up how dysfunctional our immigration laws are? Why should hard working immigrants have to shell out thousands to crooks for privilege of contributing to our economy?

      2. It’s either this or marrying Ilhan Omar.

        1. Or….or…. stay home and don’t come here illegally. Which is preferable to marrying that crazy awful bitch.

  8. If this travesty doesn’t get overturned in the courts, it’s going to be a fast trip to dystopia.

    1. The thing that changed my mind on the issue was the time. This wasn’t them signing up for anywhere out of desperation and then getting arrested immediately. They signed up, attended zero classes, then re-enrolled. FOR YEARS. Now, if there was someone who was nabbed before they could realize that they we swindled, then that would be different. However, if you look at the timeline, the actions of the “students” are indefensible. I

      1. Yes the author left out a lot of context which really throws doubt on their credibility. Thing is they could argue that it’s outrageous we force immigrants through our dysfunctional laws to shell out their life savings to crooks just to stay here and contribute to our economy. But that’s not the argument they made; instead they contrive this fake story implying they were defrauded of an education when that is not what happened and no one at the time thought is what happened.

  9. Weren’t the illegals signing up for fake schools defrauding the government first? Let’s not pretend they thought these things were real.

    1. That’s the only assumption that fits, since the writer inadvertently left out of the story anything related to these “students” taking “classes” at the fake “university”.

    2. Aha

      You can read minds.

      If I offer you a fraud you should have seen it.

      Therefore you are guilty.

  10. The Biden Administration can apply equity to this situation by setting up fake trade schools and fake high-paying Agriculture gigs.

  11. Thanks to exponential population growth since 1860, there’s a voter born every ten seconds. After they demand coercive candidates and insist on the initiation of force, fraud and violence–and win exactly that–they whine. All have my schadenfreude.

  12. The solution to this is a simple one.If the person who applied was in the country legally when they applied, they get their money back. If they were in the country illegally (illegal crosser or visa overstay), they do not.

  13. Fake university.

    Where have I seen this before?

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