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129 Indian students detained for visa fraud could face lifelong ban from entering US

The students, all 129 of them, were trapped in a fake enrolment exercise at a fake US university, and now face civil charges because they overstayed their visas

129 students from India were last week arrested in the US could be denied entry into the country; the students face the prospect of being barred from entry into the country for a period that may range from a minimum of 10 years to a potential entire lifetime according to sources from ThePrint. The students were caught in the controversy whilst trying to enroll in a fake US university.

Fake university: University of Farmington

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) encouraged the students to enroll to the fake university (University of Farmington) that was part of an undercover operation. As a result of the operation, conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), means that the students now face the civil charges of overstaying their visas. In addition, the students could also be banned from entry into the US for a period that is estimated at between 10 and 20 years, with the potential for even longer bans.

The situation could not be any worse for the said students. According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the environment in the detention centers housing the students was described as “precarious and pathetic”. Our sources at ThePrint confirm that the students are forced to share the prison with hardened criminals such as human traffickers and drug peddlers that are part of the congestion in immigration detention centers and jails in the country.

Though many of them were eventually released after paying bail bonds ranging from $10,000 – $25,000, they are not permitted to continue with the work they were performing previously. As such, they are now forced to wait until they can appear before a judge, added the source.

California, Detroit and Georgia contributed most of the students out on bail, though the 129 were picked up across a multitude of states in the U.S. Given this, the government has had the Indian community in the affected states to assist the students during the development of their legal proceedings as well as facilitating their eventual deportation. The main challenge for US immigration officials, however, is to not only ensure their deportation, but also that they are unable to come back to the US legally.

‘Federal crime’

The HSI is said to have began operating their fake university in 2017; however, investigations began in 2015, according to the US ICE.

Dinesh Goel, the managing director of LCR Capital Partners (Middle East, South East Asia and India), a private, US-based investment firm that provides EB-5 applicants with investment advisory, notes that overstaying a US visa is a federal crime. Because of this, he also notes that it comes with heavy penalties that may extend to the inclusion of jail time. Further, once the individual is deported, may never be let back into the US.

Dinesh explains that the US, because it is seen as a preferred destination for a lot of people, makes it difficult for them to accept leaving once there and unable to find a legal and legitimate way to stay. As such, they take irrational steps to stay based on trying to figure out loopholes in the system. As a word of caution, he also explains that due to the fact that many visa systems are linked and integrated together, the student may be unable to access visas from other countries as well.

US Congressmen letter to DHS, ICE

Four US Congressmen – Rob Woodall, Brenda Lawrence, Thomas R. Souzzi and Raja Krishnamoorthi – have written a group letter to US immigration, DHS and Customs Enforcement asking that the students are treated according to due process, humanely and fairly. The Congressmen urged ICE and the DHS that the students were not only treated fairly whilst detained, but that they were also afforded all the rights due to the under the law; this included the rights to release on bond if eligible and access to an attorney, in accordance with due process.

Finally, the leaders also asked that ICE and the DHS also share the full details of the Indian students with the Indian Embassy (and its Consulates) as well as providing them with regular updates. This is in addition to facilitating Consular access to the detained students.

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