On Thursday, The Washington Post reported a meticulous, highly elaborate, years-long immigration enforcement sting operation in suburban Detroit set up and run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Post reports:
On its website, the University of Farmington advertised an innovative STEM curriculum that would prepare students to compete in the global economy, and flexible class schedules that would allow them to enroll without disrupting their careers...
But there were no classes taking place at the university, which employed no instructors or professors. In court filings that were unsealed Wednesday, federal prosecutors revealed that the school was being run by undercover agents working for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The fake university had been set up in 2015 as part of an elaborate sting operation aimed at ensnaring foreign nationals who had initially come to the United States on student visas. Its "campus" consisted of a small office in a corporate park in the northwestern Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, Mich., with no quad or library in sight.
The operation, commenced in 2015, has been conducted with the intention of catching illegal aliens who have overstayed their visas or were otherwise seeking to aid or abet visa fraud. Specifically, according to Fox News, government documents unsealed this week allege that eight individuals were charged with "help[ing] 600 undocumented immigrants...enroll in the fake university in exchange for cash, kickbacks and tuition credits."
The Detroit News originally broke news of the operation on Wednesday. The News cited President Trump's 2016 election as a leading reason for the sting operation's intensification.
Eight student recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the U.S. illegally, according to the indictments, which describe a novel investigation that dates to 2015 but intensified one month into President Donald Trump's tenure as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration.
Simultaneously Wednesday, federal agents arrested dozens of University of Farmington students in a nationwide sweep. The students were arrested on immigration violations and face possible deportation, according to a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Most of the recruiters and students involved are originally from India, according to prosecutors.
The student recruiters who were charged allegedly helped foreign nationals obtain fraudulent visa documents and create bogus student records, according to documents filed by federal prosecutors.
The Michigan sting operation is not the only recent instance of ICE creating a fake "university" for purposes of aiding its immigration law enforcement efforts. In 2016, an ICE crackdown upon the idyllically named — but nonetheless also fictitious — "University of Northern New Jersey" resulted in the arrest of 21 individuals on student and work visa charges, according to Newsweek.
The University of Northern New Jersey appeared to be a typical American college, with a campus in Cranford, New Jersey, around 22 miles southwest of New York City, and a welcoming website featuring a purple, green and white coats of arms.
Instead, the college was a sting operation run by agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who posed as "corrupt administrators," and it had no instructors or educators, no curriculum, no classes and no educational activities.
ICE enforcement operations have generally accelerated under the Trump administration. ICE's website claims that its "administrative arrests" in Fiscal Year 2018 increased by 117% over Fiscal Year 2017, and that deportations increased over the same time period by 14%.