Coming up with ways to catch illegal immigrants bent on staying undetected in the United States is not an easy chore. There are only so many border patrol agents and a ton of territory to cover. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been suffering a lot of criticism for its determination to get a handle on the border crisis, especially since President Donald Trump took office. And now the federal agency is coming under fire again, this time for using a fake university to catch recruiters using the system to get money while aiding illegals and foreign students trying to remain in the U.S.
Mainstream media is mostly reporting on how horrible it is that these students, who are only trying to better their lives, have been duped by the government. True, they were charged tuition fees for a school that didn’t even exist. But there’s much more to the story than that. First, let’s start off with the fact that this was not a Trump administration program. Yes, you read that right. The fake university “scheme” began during Barack Obama’s reign, but we all know the president will be the one criticized for it. One need only remember the detention facilities (set up before Trump) being compared to concentration camps and holding babies in cages to know how this one is going to turn out.
Of the 600 or so students “enrolled” in the fake Michigan-based University of Farmington, approximately 250 have been arrested since January. About 80% of those arrested were granted voluntary departure from the country and another 10% were given deportation notices. The other 10% are fighting the arrest and have either contested the deportation orders or have filed for relief. One student was even given permanent resident status by an immigration judge.
Students’ attorneys claim their clients were “trapped” or “preyed upon” by the government. They noted the website on which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that Farmington was legitimate and an accredited educational institution. But federal officials say the students should have known better since there were not even any physical classes to attend. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms emphasized this in a sentencing memo for one of the eight recruiters arrested during the operation. In it, he said:
“Their true intent could not be clearer. While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.”
The fake university program was designed to catch recruiters who take advantage of foreigners by charging them big bucks and recommending them to schools. Prosecutors say this is a form of visa fraud and jeopardizes the integrity of the student visa program, an initiative that allows immigrants to stay in the country as long as they are studying for a degree and are in good standing both academically and legally.
Some of the students caught in the sting effort were not trying to con the system and had transferred to the university because the school they had been attending lost its accreditation, which made their visas null and void. However, as DHS remarked, in most of these cases, the young academics remained enrolled even though they never attended a class or met a professor, which they should have realized was not appropriate. A very few did transfer to another facility after realizing something was not right, though.
Still, there is a lot of controversy over how ICE set up the operation using DHS to staff the fake facility and accepting tuition fees from the students. So far, no charges have been brought against the federal agency, but once the left has a chance to deflate from Thanksgiving dinner, we can be sure to see this latest issue laid squarely at the president’s feet, even though it was an Obama administration program to begin with.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.