US: Congress members seek details of operation in which 129 Indian students were detained

A bipartisan group of Congress members on Wednesday sought details of the sting operation carried out by the Department of Homeland Security that led to the detention of 129 Indian students, reported. The students were arrested on allegations of immigration fraud.

The Congress members, in a letter, urged the Department of Homeland Security and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure the detained students were treated properly and afforded all rights, including access to a lawyer and release on bond for those eligible.

The letter was written by Thomas Souzzi, Rob Woodall, Brenda Lawrence and Raja Krishnamoorthi. It also asked the departments to share details and updates on the Indian students with the Embassy and consulates of India, and to facilitate consular access for the detainees.

India on Tuesday said it had gained consular access to 117 of the 129 Indian students detained in the US.

“The Indian-American community and Indian consulate have expressed concerns regarding the treatment of these detained foreign nationals,” the letter said.

According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the investigation began in 2015 and Homeland Security agents have been operating the fake university, University of Farmington, since 2017. As per the indictment unsealed last week, eight individuals recruited hundreds students for the university. The eight people were arrested in Detroit for visa, immigration fraud.

An Indian-American attorney on Tuesday alleged that the Department of Homeland Security allowed the “fake university” to be set up and misled students in other countries, reported .

“We are not saying that our students are not at fault,” said immigration lawyer Anu Peshawaria. “They should have done their due diligence before signing up. If they are perpetrating crime knowingly, they should be punished but if they are trapped or encouraged to commit the crime then we need to help them.”

Peshawaria said it was surprising that the university was registered with the education board that authorises the issuance of I-20 forms to students, which is approved by the Department of Homeland Security.