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Girish (name changed) was working as an IT developer in Louisiana since the last four years when suddenly his world was turned upside down.
In January 2019, Girish was among 129 Indians who were arrested by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officials for visa fraud.
Girish had enrolled at a fake college, Detroit-based Farmington University, in order to extend his stay in the US.
Farmington University was a trap to catch immigrants who were staying in the US illegally. The college was set up by the US Department of Homeland Security in 2015.
Just when Girish and others were being taken to the detention centre, Madu Medi, a Texas-based representative of the APNRT (Andhra Pradesh Non Resident Telugu) Society started getting frantic calls from friends and family members of these Indian students.
Among 129 Indian students who were arrested, most of them belonged to the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
And therefore, as the news spread, local organisations came forward to help. Madu Medi soon began looking for lawyers who were willing to take up the cases of these students.
“Once we found the legal team, every court system that we had in different states had their own judges take on these cases differently because the court system in Michigan was different from the court system in Colorado or in Chicago or in Louisiana.”Madu Medi, Spokesperson, AP Non Resident Telugu Society
Once the trial began, the students were given an option of deportation which they readily accepted.
While 30 students were deported to India in February, more Indians chose to return back to their homeland by May.
Rajesh (name changed) was working at a medical devices manufacturing company in Indiana and just like Girish he had also enrolled at the Farmington University.
Working professionals like Rajesh and Girish were making a beeline for admissions to the Farmington University as they were assured of getting a work permit after enrollment. This work permit would have helped them in extending their stay in the US after the student visa had expired.
These students were not the only ones who were embroiled in the Stay-To-Pay scheme, eight recruiters or middlemen, all of Indian origin were also arrested for luring young immigrants and facilitating their enrollment at the fake university.
“He (university official) explained that we will have to pay a fee of $2,500 every semester and there will be no issues. They won’t share anything with the US government and it seemed pretty cool to me. Also, they had provided work permit for one year.”Girish (name changed), Indian student arrested in visa fraud
Back in India after deportation, Rajesh and Girish are struggling to find a decent job.
“My parents were suffering a lot. I have paid $25,000 to get bail. It was really horrible to arrange money.”Rajesh
Questions have been raised whether such sting operations like that of setting up a fake university are even ethical. But for youngsters like Girish and Rajesh, their dreams of working in America have been shattered for now.
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