Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
129 Indian students have been detained by immigration authorities in the United States for being enrolled at the fake University of Farmington. But are all the detained students frauds, or are many of them victims of an immigration racket? Reputed Indian-American lawyer Anu Peshawaria, who is advising several Farmington students, speaks to The Quint on the concerns regarding the current crisis, and what lies ahead for these young Indians.
The following are edited excerpts from the interview.
You have been advising many of the Indians students who were enrolled at the University of Farmington, which turned out to be a fake university being run by the US government to catch immigration frauds. What happens next to these 129 detained Indian students?
Some wish to stay in the United States and change their status to another university, some wish to challenge what has happened to them because they have been duped, some feel that they were a part of this program knowingly so they feel they may be harmed, so they are choosing to leave.
The Problems With America’s Undercover Operation
What are the concerns regarding the manner in which the US government carried out the investigation? Isn’t there a chance that students may not have known that this is a fake university, especially since the Department of Homeland Security itself listed the University of Farmington as a legitimate university?
If a university such as this has been made, it is also the duty of the government to ensure that they did not motivate or encourage the students to make a bait for them. These are some of the grounds which need to be examined. I do find a lot of this motivation happening. The university is registered by the education board, and if you find all the licenses that they have, and due diligence is being done [you may be convinced]. While others, who did not make very extensive background checks, may have been told by friends about how they’ve joined this university, gone to India and come back. When a person goes and comes back to the US, and immigration authorities do not stop them, people feel that this is an actual university.
It also has to be examined whether the university made it clear to the students that this was a pay-for-hire and that they were not supposed to inform the immigration. What precautions were taken and by whom? What due diligence was done when these visas were issued? All the answers to these questions need to be examined thoroughly before we come to a conclusion.
‘Not All Students Can Afford Proper Legal Aid’
Do the detained Indian students have access to proper legal aid in the US?
The students themselves cannot afford this money (for proper legal aid) so this is a time when governments should step in and offer them some recourse. This is a situation where I find the governments are lacking in providing support to the students.
‘Students Who Have Been Duped Must Be Refunded’
What are the likely economic consequences on the students who have been detained or those who have managed to fly back? What impact will this have on the loans they may have taken to go to the United States, pay the university fees, etc?
Many of the students have come from very small villages and towns. This is the lifelong wealth that some families have spent to send their children overseas. I think most of them could be wiped out economically. Their loans would not be returned, many of them are facing threats about returning to India because they cannot refund that money. Those students who have paid thousands of dollars, if they have been duped, need to get their money refunded.
We are not saying that none of the students are at fault, but if they have violated some conditions of their visas, we need to examine the circumstances and nature of the violations, and whether they deem this kind of punishment or not.