Critics Accused ICE Of Entrapping Students With A Fake University — But The Agency Is Releasing Undercover Footage

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • ICE released undercover footage of interviews taken of foreign nationals who tried to enroll in the University of Farmington, a fake school set up by the agency. 
  • In the interviews, numerous individuals acknowledged they understood “the school” had no actual classes, and that the program was illegal. 
  • The release of the video tapes was intended to rebuke reports that “mischaracterized” the operation, as many critics felt it tricked students. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released undercover video footage of foreign nationals apparently acknowledging the illegality of a fake university, a rebuke to criticism that the school fooled students who simply wanted a legitimate education.

ICE on Friday released undercover footage of potential students being interviewed for The University of Farmington, a fake school in Michigan created by U.S. federal agents to catch foreign nationals committing student visa fraud. The video also included a statement by Derek Benner, the acting deputy director of ICE, reiterating that each potential enrollee was told the school had no actual classes or teachers.

“Anything is fine, but my status should be maintained,” said an unidentified male on the video in response to an interviewer telling him Farmington had no classes.

“You know this is not legal, right? So it has to kind of stay between us, right?” the interview said to the man. The individual, whose face was blurred to protect his identity, acknowledged the question in the affirmative.

Farmington Website

The Farmington website is pictured after DHS took the “school” offline. Screen grab.

ICE provided footage of four different interviews, with all the foreign nationals engaging in nearly identical exchanges.

“We don’t have any classes right now,” one interviewer said to a prospective female enrollee.

“I’m OK with that,” the unidentified female student said. She continued to nod her head as the interviewer told her the setup was not legal, and that they’d be in trouble if authorities discovered she wasn’t actually going to classes.

The entire goal of Farmington was to catch foreign nationals abusing the student visa program. Many foreign young adults attempt to remain in the United States under a student visa, but have no real intention of obtaining a degree or an education whatsoever. The “university” proved wildly successful, with agents arresting around 250 individuals earlier this year who were enrolled.

However, news of the operation went viral, and attracted widespread criticism from Democratic politicians and left-wing news outlets that were under the impression Farmington entrapped students who were seeking a legitimate education.

“This is cruel and appalling. These students simply dreamed of getting the high-quality higher education America can offer. ICE deceived and entrapped them, just to deport them,” Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted in November.

” … and then those students, who thought they were going to attend a real university, were arrested and deported,” The Young Turks host Ana Kasparian reported in November. “I am not kidding, this is actually something that happened.” Other critics called for the abolishment of ICE altogether because of the sting operation.

ICE released the video footage and an accompanying statement to clarify Farmington’s operation.

“These reports mischaracterized the purpose and rationale for the investigation, and I want to set the record straight,” ICE acting deputy director Derek Benner said Friday. “In addition, prior to enrolling at Farmington, each prospective enrollee was informed that there were no classes, curriculum or teachers at Farmington.  Despite this, individuals enrolled because they saw an opportunity to avoid any academic requirements and, instead, work full-time, which was a violation of their nonimmigrant status.” (RELATED: New York Authorities Charge Nearly 100 People In Massive Takedown Of MS-13 Gang)

“Evidence, including video footage, audio recordings, and correspondence collected during the investigation supports that each prospective enrollee knowingly and willfully violated their nonimmigrant status,” Benner continued.

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