India seeks consular access to students detained in US said
External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
India has sought consular access to its students detained by the US authorities and has impressed upon the Trump administration the need to address the situation at the earliest, the external affairs ministry said on Friday.
Asserting that the government was according the “highest priority” to the situation arising out of the detention of Indian students in the US, External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India has also highlighted that a distinction should be made between those involved in recruiting or enrolling students and students who have been duped or defrauded in the process.
One-hundred-thirty foreign students arrested by US authorities for enroling at a fake university allegedly to remain in the US are largely Indians. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents made the arrests on Wednesday.
“As soon as we received the information regarding their detention, our mission contacted the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security requesting for a list of the detained students along with relevant identity details, the place of their detention, etc,” he said.
He said the government together with Indian Mission in Washington and the Indian Consulates in the US were according the highest priority to the situation arising out of the detention of Indian students in the US.
“We have placed a formal request for consular access, emphasizing that the request may be taken as very high priority. We have highlighted that a distinction should be made between those involved in recruiting or enrolling students and students who have been duped or defrauded in the process,” Kumar said.
“Our Mission and Posts are ready to render all assistance to Indian students in the US to deal with the emerging situation. We have also involved Indian community organizations in reaching out to the students,” Kumar said, adding India is monitoring the situation closely.
Eight of these individuals were arrested on counts of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to harbour aliens (non-U.S. citizens) for profit, according to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, a statement from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District, Matthew Schneider, said.
Of these eight arrests, six were made in Detroit, one in Florida and one in Virginia.
In addition to the eight “educational agents” allegedly running the racket, an unspecified number of Indian students have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security in connection with the above case.
The American Telugu Association has put the number of students arrested at 100 and says it has confirmation of arrest warrants for 600 students based on conversations with attorneys. But it is difficult to verify the number of people arrested.
At least 25 of those enrolled at Farmington have been confirmed as arrested, Rahul Reddy, a Houston-based lawyer at an immigration law firm, Reddy & Neumann, told The Hindu. Mr. Reddy had spoken to some of those detained or to their roommates or close relatives.
The indictments unsealed on Wednesday said the eight individuals at the centre of the racket were “a group of foreign citizens”. It is highly likely that all eight are Indian citizens based on their names, their characterisation in the charge-sheet and discussions with sources.
The fraud is based on a sting operation involving Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents who had posed as owners and employees of the University of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan, approximately between June 2017 and January 2019.
Students would pay to enrol in the University, giving the appearance that they were in approved educational programs and making normal progress towards getting a degree. However, the University had no faculty nor any classes, the indictment says, and the students were aware of this. The “pay to stay” scheme allowed them to maintain their student visa (F-1) status and obtain work permits as part of the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) option open to qualified F-1 visa students.