DC: An elaborate scheme to catch foreign nationals suspected of student visa fraud reportedly has many of them racing to leave the country before they are apprehended and barred from re-entering the U.S.
While the national debate over immigration is fixated on border crossings, the U.S. government is tackling another other common method foreigners use to enter and remain in the country illegally: abuse of the U.S. student visa program. Every year, thousands of foreign nationals enroll in a U.S. school, allowing them to remain in the country. However, many exploit the restrictions that come with F-1 visas by working long hours outside of campus.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials used a creative strategy to catch foreign students trying to take part in such “pay-to-stay” immigration tactics.
The University of Farmington’s website — at first glance to prospective students — appeared like any other Michigan college. However, the school had no curriculum, no teachers, no classes or any staff. It was, in reality, a sting operation set up by ICE to catch foreign nationals attempting to stay in the country illegally. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents, pretending to be Farmington faculty, attracted foreign students hoping to enroll in the school as a ruse to stay in the U.S. while they instead worked full-time.
The students who “attended” Farmington were allegedly aware they were enrolling in a school with no classes, allowing them to maintain their visa status while they kept working.
The fake university proved successful. Eight student recruiters were arrested and charged for allegedly trying to help over 600 foreign students remain in the country illegally, Detroit News first reported. One-hundred thirty students were arrested in January on civil immigration charges.