India protests detention of 129 students in US over 'fake' university

Those students who knowingly participated in scam knowing it was not a genuine academic programme face deportation

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Saturday that it has been in contact with U.S. officials and has expressed concern for the detained students.

About 130 foreign students, majority Indians, were rounded up after enrolling at the University of Farmington, in what prosecutors claim was a case of "pay-to-stay" immigration fraud.

"We have urged the U.S. side to share full details and regular updates of the students with the government, to release them from detention at the earliest and not to resort to deportation against their will", MEA added.

"Rather, their intent was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization under the CPT (a course-related curricular training programme that allows off-campus work authorization for foreign students)".

The University of Farmington, advertised as based in MI state, was run by undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security to expose "pay-to-stay" immigration fraud.

The external affairs ministry said in a statement that the demarche had conveyed India's "concern over the dignity and well-being of the detained students and the need for immediate consular access".

"We can confirm that the Embassy received a demarche from the Ministry of External Affairs about the Indian citizens detained in the United States this week".

The ICE officials said 129 of them are Indian nationals.

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The University of Farmington is listed on page 259 of the 282 pages of "Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools and programs", according to the site.

Lawyers have argued numerous students enrolled believing the university was legal.

The US authorities had arrested 129 Indian students for illegally staying in the country.

The association, according to Detroit Free Press, confirmed that about 100 students had been arrested and others were facing arrest warrants.

Noting that all participants in the scheme knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes, the ICE said the defendants meant to help shield and hide their customers "students" from USA immigration authorities for money and collectively profited in excess of a quarter of a million dollars as a result of their scheme. It is unclear how many students are facing deportation, but it's being called one of the largest sweeps in recent years.

The indictment accuses the students of enrolling only to stay in the country, not to get an education. Officials from the Indian embassy and consulates in the United States visited several detention centres and about 30 students have so far been contacted by consular officers. Prior to this, this student from Telangana was detained for over 14 hours. The website tells affected students to contact their local office of Homeland Security Investigations, the ICE agency that did the undercover operation.

The Indian Embassy and consulates are in touch with the various USA government departments, including the Homeland Security and the ICE, and consular officers have met with some of the detainees, the Indian Embassy told The Hindu on Friday afternoon.

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security shut down a website that had been created for the University of Farmington.

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