India Abroad

Indian Embassy Opens Hotline For 129 Students Arrested In US Immigration Fraud

PRERNA YADAV | 0
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| February 2 , 2019 , 14:04 IST

The Indian embassy in the US opened a 24/7 hotline to assist 129 Indian students who were arrested by the American authorities in the "pay-and-stay" university visa scam.

The arrested students, their friends, and family members can contact the embassy at cons3.washington@mea.gov.in. The Indian embassy has appointed a nodal officer to handle and coordinate all issues related to helping Indian students affected by the bursting of the "pay-and-stay" racket run by a group of Indians that has put some 600 students in trouble.

The US' Department of Homeland Security recently carried out an undercover operation at the university in Detroit's Farmington Hills designed to expose immigration fraud, according to federal prosecutors who announced charges in the case.

In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "We are aware of this incident. We are ascertaining more details (through) our embassy in Washington and different consulates in the US. We have also mobilized the Indian community organizations in the US to extend all possible support to the Indian students who are affected by this incident."

"The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has administratively arrested 130 foreign nationals enrolled at the University of Farmington for civil immigration violations. Of the 130, 129 were Indian nationals," Khaalid H Walls, an ICE spokesperson, told PTI.

While immigration attorneys said that the students were not aware that the university was operating illegally and illegitimately and criticized authorities for using "troubling" methods to trap them for profits, officials hold the students accountable, claiming that they "knowingly enrolled" themselves in the fake university to falsely maintain their student visa status to remain in the US.

In a nationwide sweep, federal agents with ICE arrested "130 foreign nationals on civil immigration charges," ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell had told the Free Press on Thursday.

The arrests took place across the US, in New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston, Michigan, California, Louisiana, North Carolina and St Louis. The students had immigrated legally to the US on student visas and had transferred to the University of Farmington so they could work, said attorneys.

The ICE said foreign students are granted what are called "F" and "M" visas to study in the US and must maintain their legal status by enrolling in a varsity certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. The ICE said since the Farmington varsity did not offer courses, the students were using the programme as a way to work.