How the US government created a false university to trap immigrant students | American News


The University of Farmington website describes a college that would prepare students for success in an "increasingly globalizing economy." Students would come to campus carrying backpacks and ask questions about the classes. The United States Government has listed Farmington on the list of eligible persons. The president of the school, whose LinkedIn page is still online, sent emails to students describing his school as "a nationally accredited institution authorized to enroll international students."

But it was a travesty to trap immigrants.

Undisclosed court documents last month unveiled a staggering US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to create a fictional university – no class or professor, but with a team of undercover agents who then took the case to 161 foreign nationals. stopped.

The University of Farmington website has been closed by Ice.

The University of Farmington website has been closed by Ice. Photography: screengrab

"These are students who are trying to improve their lives, they are not criminals, they are not people here, who are stealing from the system," said Amer Zahr, an assistant professor of law at the university. University of Detroit-Mercy and Najlaa spokeswoman Krim Musarsa, one of the arrested students.

Musarsa, a 29-year-old Palestinian, is among those arrested without trial for violation of civil immigration because she's enrolled at the University located near Detroit, in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Eight others have been charged with criminal offenses and are accused of helping to register students for money, kickbacks and tuition credits from February 2017 to January 2019.

Lawyers and civil rights advocates point out that there is a clear line of demarcation between the eight criminal defendants and the civil arrested students.

"Everyone was taken completely by surprise," said Zahr. "There was no warning of this action. No opinion was given [Musarsa] that she was out of status, that this university was false. "

Most of the students were Indian and the government of the country sent a rare "step" to the US embassy in New Delhi, saying the government needed immediate contact with the detainees. As of February 5, consular officials from India had visited 36 different detention centers in the United States and had created a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week hotline for affected students.

Since the indictment was opened on January 30, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has ensured that each of the more than 600 people enrolled at the University of Farmington knew that they would not participate in real courses or credits. "Their intention was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and obtain a work permit," says the indictment.

Faiza Patel, co-director of the Freedom and National Security program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, said it was not 100% clear that every student knew what he was getting into.

"Normally, we would like our law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes already committed, instead of spending time and resources creating sophisticated operations," said Patel.

Patel noted that Ice has been under fire from critics in recent years for its aggressive immigration control tactics, which targeted both criminals and people with immigration offenses. civil.

"The question remains open whether this is the best use of Ice's resources," Patel said. "I think these days we have a lot of unanswered questions about whether the way Ice reacts is a logical answer to the problems our country is facing."

At the University of Farmington, federal agents asked questions in e-mails and enrolled the school with the state of Michigan, according to e-mails obtained by the Detroit Free Press. Employees at the Farmington University building told local TV station WXYZ that students were going to ask what time the school was opening and closing and complained about the difficulty of contacting school officials. school.

The sting operation was led by the country's second largest investigative body, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is one of Ice's three branches. An ice manual published in 2008 last year revealed that, although it is advisable for undercover agents not to incite people to commit crimes, exceptions can be made and are subject to internal regulation.

This is not the first fake university created by Ice. In 2016, the agency announced that the University of Northern New Jersey was not a legitimate school and that its only employees were undercover agents. The government also insisted that more than 1,000 students knew that they were involved in a fraud. Twenty brokers were also arrested for recruiting students.

Angelo Guisado, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said that DHS had conducted the operation knowing that it could send hundreds of people to immigration courts, which do not benefit the same constitutional protections as the other courts.

"Ice knowing it or DHS knowing that it's trying to trap as many people as possible and get them into an immigration system where they know the cards are going to be stacked against the immigrant," he said. said Guisado.

He warned that the creation of a fictional university was consistent with other tactics used by Ice, such as his habit also revealed last month to create fake hearing dates for immigration hearings.

Guisado said: "This is not the first fake university created by DHS and I do not think it will be the last one."


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