ICE fake university: 'It's entrapment', say Indians reacting to news of 130 students arrested across 20 US cities

Indians in the US and in India still coming to grips with the news of more than a hundred people arrested - mostly students - across US cities this week are increasingly using a one word reaction to a carefully laid fake University trap by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to round up visa fraudsters: “entrapment”.

Nikhila Natarajan February 01, 2019 23:27:29 IST
ICE fake university: 'It's entrapment', say Indians reacting to news of 130 students arrested across 20 US cities

New York: Indians in the US and in India still coming to grips with the news of more than 100 people arrested - mostly students - across US cities this week are increasingly using a one word reaction to a carefully laid fake University trap by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to round up visa fraudsters: “entrapment”.

Indian officials in the US say they are taking a completely "hands on" approach to dealing with the situation. "We are on top of this. All our Consulates are in touch with ICE. In many places, we have been given consular access and where we don't have it, we are going directly during the visiting times and meeting with those in custody. Our main focus is that no injustice should be done", Sandeep Chakravarty, Consul General in New York told Firstpost.

"We have already spoken over the phone to some of those in custody. Our Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla is driving the entire strategy. We are actively working with community organizations, especially Telugu-Led ones since most of those arrested are Telugu speakers. Our first priority is to get them out of custody", Chakravarty said.

Eight lynchpins of a student visa scam and at least 130 students (according to latest ICE information) have been arrested in sweeping raids by US law enforcement officers this week. Only one of the students is Palestinian and the rest are all from India, according to latest reporting in local Detroit newspapers. The indictment that's been making the headlines makes it fairly clear what the charges against the 'agents' are. The questions that continue to swirl go something like this. We have reached out to US law enforcement for clarification on this and will update basis a reply:
- Are there any first time students?
- If yes, how many of those arrested are first time students?
- If there are indeed first time students, on what basis was their US visa stamped (since we now know that Farmington University was fake)
- Are some or all of the arrested students visa overstays?

ICE fake university Its entrapment say Indians reacting to news of 130 students arrested across 20 US cities

Representative image. Reuters

“To fix a few fraudsters, they (ICE) used students as cannon fodder. How can students be manipulated like this”, Indians dealing with the immediate fallout of the arrests said on background.

114 Indians arrested in 20 US cities
Indian authorities in the US know of at least 114 Indian students arrested across 20 cities in the U.S. in connection with visa fraud charges. The maximum number of arrests have happened in Detroit (23) followed by 16 in Newark, New Jersey, 9 in Dallas, 7 each in Atlanta and Philadelphia and 5 or less in all of the other cities.

The following eight have been charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to harbour aliens (non-U.S. citizens) for profit, according to charges brought by the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division: Barath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary; Suresh Kandala, 31, of Culpeper; Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky; Prem Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina; Santosh Sama, 28, of Fremont, California; Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta, Georgia; and Naveen Prathipati, 26, of Dallas, Texas.

The eight defendants were charged criminally for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit; the students have been arrested on civil immigration charges.

The Telugu Association of North America (TANA) is in talks with lawyers in the US East Coast to file a “class action” lawsuit, Jayashekar Talluri told Firstpost on Friday.

The charges against 8 defendants
This is the “general allegation”: That a group of six “foreign citizens” ensnared at least “600 other foreign citizens” to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States and actively recruited them to enroll in a fraudulent school as part of a pay and stay scheme and because of this, the “alliance” profited in excess of a quarter million dollars.
"All participants in the scheme knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes. The defendants intended to help shield and hide their customers/"students" from United States immigration authorities for money and collectively profited in excess of a quarter of a million dollars as a result of their scheme", says ICE.

What are attorneys saying?
Lawyers following the latest developments are suggesting that students may have fallen for the ‘look-alike’ nature of the course - which makes it seem very similar to other bonafide courses offered in the US.

"There are specific universities who have advanced degree programs that primarily involved practical training from day one that allows them to enroll and the bulk of the time is spent working," Sofo said. The courses "can be done at a remote location. It doesn't have to be where they attend the university. ... Programs like this exist and they are legal”, Michael Sofo, an attorney in Atlanta with Mannan and Associates, told Detroit Free Press.

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