Update: I was wrong. Thankfully.
This nation faces an existential threat with illegal immigration. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is charged with locating and removing people who are in this nation illegally. That includes visa overstays, a problem that deserves more attention than it’s getting. But an Obama-era scheme to entrap foreign students has many people on both sides of the aisle up in arms. Not only were these students fooled into enrolling in a fake university, but they were also charged a ton of money for the opportunity to get deported.
The University of Farmington, “founded” in 2015 and incorporated in Michigan in January, 2016, was designed by ICE to attract foreign students whose F-1 visas had expired. It worked; 250 students, mostly from India, have been arrested. Around 80% have opted for deportation. The rest are fighting to stay in the United States. One student was granted a visa and is currently still in the United States legally.
The students had arrived legally in the U.S. on student visas, but since the University of Farmington was later revealed to be a creation of federal agents, they lost their immigration status after it was shut down in January. The school was located on Northwestern Highway near 13 Mile Road in Farmington Hills and staffed with undercover agents posing as university officials.
Out of the approximately 250 students arrested on administrative charges, “nearly 80% were granted voluntary departure and departed the United States,” the Detroit office of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) told the Free Press in a statement Tuesday.
Emails obtained by the Free Press earlier this year showed how the fake university attracted students to the university, which cost about $12,000 on average in tuition and fees per year.
The U.S. “trapped the vulnerable people who just wanted to maintain (legal immigration) status,” Rahul Reddy, a Texas attorney who represented or advised some of the students arrested, told the Free Press this week. “They preyed upon on them.”
Why it’s wrong
Let’s be crystal clear about something. These are not drug smugglers. They’re not economic migrants who crossed the border illegally. They’re not even visa overstays who are trying to circumvent the system, as some have called them. These are people who came to America for education and work and who were trying to continue their education and work legally. Had they been accepted to a different university or if their previous university had maintained accreditation, their presence here would still be legal.
Some will argue that they were trying to get around the system by using a sketchy “university” for paperwork purposes only. This is true. But the government did everything it could to make the university seem legitimate. That may not qualify as entrapment from a legal perspective, but these students were clearly misled and made to believe they were doing what they could do to remain here legally.
Programs like these are terrible at a time when ICE and others who fight against illegal immigration are getting a bad rap. Currently, #AbolishICE is trending again on Twitter. There is plenty of false outrage out there. Doing things like this only add fuel to the fire, and unfortunately this particular fuel is righteous even if most of the contempt towards ICE is unwarranted.
But more importantly, there are much bigger issues than this that need to be addressed within our immigration system. This was a crutch, a resource-saving scam that was able to cast a wide net at low cost. In fact, the agency may have secured funds (though we don’t know where the money went) that could potentially be used to fight other forms of illegal immigration. I get it. I understand how this may seem to have been a good idea, but it’s not. On the list of people here illegally who deserve major operations in order to find and deport them, Indian students are at the bottom.
I support the vast majority of what ICE does to protect us, but setting up a fake university to bilk and entrap Indian students is not one of them. We have real issues with illegal immigration. This Obama-era scheme was ill-advised.
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