Entrapment? ICE created fake universities to lure foreign students before arresting & deporting them

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US immigration authorities created fake universities, lured foreign-born students to enroll, and took large sums of their money – before arresting and deporting them for immigration violations, a new report has revealed.

In recent months, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported 90 students enrolled in a fake Michigan-based university, the Detroit Free Press reported on Wednesday. As many as 250 people, mostly from India, have been arrested since January, as part of the sting operation concocted by federal agents.

The scammed students had arrived in the US legally on student visas, but when those were about to expire, they sought to extend them by enrolling in the ‘University of Farmington’ – which was later revealed to be fake, a front operated by ICE. 

While the story has provoked outrage, with many quick to assume that the con job was a scheme conjured up by the Trump administration, the ‘university’ was actually incorporated in January 2016 – during Barack Obama’s presidency – and has been staffed with undercover agents pretending to be college officials ever since.

About 80 percent of the 250 arrested students were granted “voluntary departure” from the country, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations told the Free Press. Another 10 percent have received deportation notices, either from an immigration judge or US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), while the remaining 10 percent have filed for relief or are contesting their deportation orders with the Executive Office for Immigration Review. An immigration judge granted one student not just the permission to stay in the US, but permanent resident status.

Attorneys representing the students say they were “trapped” and “preyed upon” by the US government, noting that the Department of Homeland Security specifically stated on its website that ‘Farmington’ was a legitimate educational institution. An accreditation agency in on the scam also listed fake university as authentic, adding a further layer of credibility to the scheme.

The US government reportedly collected millions of dollars from the swindled students. Emails seen by the Free Press showed that students were forking over a whopping $12,000 on average in annual fees to attend the non-existent college. 

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However, attorneys representing ICE and the US Department of Justice are arguing that the students should have known the institution was fake, since it did not offer classes in a physical location and that their “true intent” was to play the system rather than receive an education. Yet even those who transferred out of the fake university when they realized no on-site classes were offered still ended up under arrest for immigration fraud.

Some of the students had actually transferred to ‘Farmington’ after the schools they previously attended lost accreditation, throwing their immigration status into limbo.

It’s not the first time the US government has conned foreign students into attending a fake university. In 2016, a number of foreign students similarly claimed they were victims of a government sting after enrolling in the made-up ‘University of Northern New Jersey’ which was created to trap recruiters the government alleged were trying to help students fraudulently maintain their legal status.

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