On Monday, alerted that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had arrested roughly 250 students since January on immigration violations as part of a sting operation involving a fake university, actress Alyssa Milano, a fervent opponent of ICE, tweeted, “OH MY GOD. ICE has arrested about 250 students who were enrolled at a fake university set up by ICE to lure in students.”
OH MY GOD.
ICE has arrested about 250 students who were enrolled at a fake university set up by ICE to lure in students.https://t.co/2P8iZtnMGB
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) November 27, 2019
Someone might alert Milano —a strident voice consistently ripping the Trump administration for its immigration policy — of one little fact: the University of Farmington in Michigan was created during the Obama Administration in 2015. The sting operation was code-named “Paper-Chase.” The Detroit News reported in January 2019 that eight “recruiters” for the university who hailed from India were charged with visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. Those eight recruiters allegedly made more than $250,000 from the university, in lieu of recruiting students.
Prosecutors argued that the students enrolled in the university so they could retain their student-visa status and stay in the U.S. despite being aware “that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits or make academic progress towards an actual degree,” as The New York Times reported. The Times said the recruiters were “accused of enlisting at least 600 people to enroll in the school.”
Matthew Schneider, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, stated in a news release, “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.” Former federal prosecutor Peter Henning stated, “It’s creative and it’s not entrapment. The government can put out the bait but it’s up to the defendants to fall for it.”
In a sentencing memo for one of the recruiters, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote, “Their true intent could not be clearer. While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.”
The Times added, “Each of the foreign citizens who ‘enrolled’ and made ‘tuition’ payments to the University knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits, or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study,” the indictments said, adding that the students knew that ‘discretion should be used when discussing the program with others.’”
The Detroit Free Press reported:
Out of the approximately 250 students arrested on administrative charges, “nearly 80% were granted voluntary departure and departed the United States,” the Detroit office of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) told the Free Press in a statement Tuesday. Out of the remaining 20%, about half of them have received a final order of removal; some of them were ordered removed by an immigration judge, and others “were given an expedited removal by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” said HSI Detroit. The remaining 10% “have either filed for some sort of relief or are contesting their removals with Executive Office for Immigration Review,” said HSI Detroit.