ICE Set Up A University, But Its Mission Wasn’t Education

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) set up a fake university in Michigan to catch people who wanted to stay in the U.S. illegally.

The University of Farmington was part of a secret operation, “Paper Chase,” in 2015 and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents began acting as university officials in February 2017, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.

“Beginning in 2015, the university was part of a federal law enforcement undercover operation designed to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud,” the federal indictment unsealed Wednesday said, according to the Detroit Free Press.”The University was not staffed with instructors/educators, it had no curriculum, no actual classes.”

Eight student recruiters were arrested for allegedly trying to help at least 600 foreign citizens remain in the U.S. illegally, according to the indictment documents unveiled Wednesday, The Detroit News reported.

The majority of students and recruiters were originally from India. The recruiters’ ages ranged between 26 and 35. Student recruiters helped the foreign nationals wrongly obtain immigration documents from the school and created fake student records, The Detroit News reported.

The American Telegu Association said in a Wednesday Facebook post that 100 students associated with Farmington were arrested.

The students could face deportation, according to The Detroit News. The indictment claims the foreign nationals knew the university’s programs were illegal, but the recruiters did not know about the operation.

The students entered the U.S. legally, an ICE spokesperson said to the Detroit Free Press. But they transferred to Farmington after coming to the U.S. in order to work.

International students are required to get an F-1 visa, that allows them to study at an accredited school in the U.S., according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The students at the fake university were hoping to gain employment in the country through Curricular Practical Training (CPT). (RELATED: Trump Fights Back At Chine By Imposing Limits On Chinese Visas)

The fake university had a realistic-looking website and even got an accreditor on board with the plan, Inside Higher Ed reported.

“The University of Farmington is a nationally accredited business and STEM institution located in Metro Detroit,” the school’s website said. “Our innovative curriculum combines traditional instruction and distance learning with full-time [sic] professional experiences. We offer flexible class schedules and a focus on students who do not want to interrupt their careers.”

The school was run out of a basement in an office building, according to The Detroit News.

“We are all aware that international students can be a valuable asset to our country, but as this case shows, the well-intended international student visa program can also be exploited and abused,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a Wednesday statement.

DHS conducted a similar operation to the University of Farmington in 2016. Officials created the University of Northern New Jersey in order to catch people involved with visa fraud, according to The New York Times.

Nearly 69,000 foreign students overstayed their visas in fiscal year 2017, according to DHS data. Students from China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Brazil made up 44 percent of overstays.

ICE did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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