WASHINGTON: Hundreds of Indian students, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, face the prospect of deportation from the US after authorities raided and shut down a university in the Silicon Valley on charges of a massive immigration fraud.
The Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, a major suburb in San Francisco Bay Area, has been charged by federal investigating authorities with being part of an effort to defraud, misuse visa permits and indulge in money laundering and other crimes.
According to a federal complaint filed in a California court, the University, which was raided and shut down last week, helped foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status.
The university is said to have 1,555 students. As many as 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals, the complaint said.
Investigations by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) found that while students were admitted to various residential and online courses of the university and on paper lived in California, in reality they “illegally” worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas. ICE has called it as a “sham university.” The ICE investigations found that more than half of these students were reported to be residing in a single apartment located in Sunnyvale California.
During the course of the investigation ICE found that the university gave the residential address of its students in order to conceal that they did not live in California, said the court papers. For a student to maintain an active immigration status, they must show proof that they are making reasonable process towards completing coursework and physically attend classes.
Federal investigating authorities are now sweeping out on each of those students, who paid lakhs for obtaining students visa and also students work permit. Several of them have been interrogated, creating a panic reaction among the Indian student community.
Many of the students from Andhra Pradesh, who were planning to join the university for the new semester, have cancelled their US travel plans.
Classes were scheduled to start on January 10 after the winter break. It is understood that many of these students are planning to leave the country as soon as possible as they are being interrogated.
There are unconfirmed reports of some of the students being detained and deportation process has been started against them.
Once the university has been shut down, the students who come on F-1 visa, lose their status within a stipulated time. These students have been making desperate calls to Indian- American immigration attorneys.
“We have received verification that ICE has detained some of the students and placed them in removal proceedings,” Murthy Law Firm, a popular immigration attorney firm among Indian-Americans, said in a posting on its website.
On January 20, 2011 the Murthy Law Firm received numerous phone calls from students registered at Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, California, it said in its posting.
“Some of the F-1 Tri-Valley students may have options to try to change status in the United States. Some are potentially eligible to request a change to H-4 or other dependant statuses. “Others might be eligible for H1B status through employers, but may not have enough time to file for the soon-to-be reached FY 2011 H1B cap. Those who have previously held H1B status and do not need cap numbers would not face this problem,” advised the Murthy Law Firm.
Tri-Valley University, on its website, says that it is a Christian Higher Education Institution aiming to offer rigorous and excellent quality academic programmes in the context of Christian faith and world view. It offers a wide range of courses.
According to the complaint, the university and its founder Susan Su have made millions of dollars in tuition fee for issuing visa-related documents that enabled hundreds of foreign nationals to obtain illegal student immigration status.
Calls were made to various telephone numbers listed on the Tri Valley website but either the voice mail box was full or the number was not accepting any new calls.
According to the court document, ICE began its investigations in May 2010.
In February 2009, the university received necessary permission to issue visas for 30 students and in May that year it had some 11 active students who had F-1 visas.
The number jumped to 939 by May 2010.