Anyone who hasn’t supported the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency may want to reconsider their position after several new revelations this week.
First came the news that ICE officials have been force-feeding six immigrants through plastic nasal tubes during a hunger strike at the El Paso Processing Center in Texas after the detained men stopped eating to protest verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards.
Then came the word of a sting operation set up by ICE in Michigan where operatives from the division of the Department of Homeland Security set up a fake university to entrap foreign students who wanted to remain in the U.S., according to report in the Detroit Free Press.
Matthew Schneider, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, announced yesterday that eight people were arrested and indicted for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit in a major immigration fraud case stemming from their enrollment in the phony university that ICE set up in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
According to the report:
“The students enrolled at the fake university with the intent to obtain jobs under a student visa program called CPT (Curricular Practical Training) that allows students to work in the U.S., said prosecutors.”
The arrested defendants assisted at least 600 “foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States and actively recruited them to enroll in a fraudulent school as part of a ‘pay to stay’ scheme,” the indictment states.
Additionally, prosecutors allege that the defendants “conspired with each other and others to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI (Homeland Security Investigation) special agents as part of an undercover operation.” HSI is the investigative unit within ICE.
Anyone who may have visited the website of the faux institution of higher education would have found a quite believable pitch for students.
“Located in the heart of the automotive and advanced manufacturing center of Southeast Michigan, the University of Farmington provides students from throughout the world a unique educational experience. Our dynamic business administration and STEM curriculum allows students to rapidly apply their knowledge; preparing them to succeed in an ever-globalizing economy,” the website reads.
Instead of legitimate professors, however, undercover agents working with the Department of Homeland Security impersonated teaching staff.
While it is perfectly legal for foreign students to obtain an F-1 visa to study at U.S. universities, students must stay enrolled and make progress towards a degree to avoid being eligible for deportation after 60 days.
The indictment maintains that the students who enrolled “knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits or make academic progress toward an actual degree. Each student knew that the University’s program was not approved by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was illegal, and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others.”
It further charges that the eight defendants were part of a conspiracy to help enroll others at the college in exchange for cash, kickbacks, and tuition credits as part of the “pay to stay” scheme. The indictment does not provide details of who exactly offered the defendants the incentives to enroll other students, raising questions as to whether the entire scheme was a form of entrapment by ICE agents looking to snare unsuspecting foreign students who may not be familiar with the intricacies of U.S. immigration law.
ICE maintains that the students involved in this case initially came to the U.S. legally to study at other schools but later transferred to the University of Farmington in order to be able to work.
“’Homeland Security Investigations special agents uncovered a nationwide network that grossly exploited U.S. immigration laws,’ said Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis, who heads the Detroit office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). ‘These suspects aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the United States illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not. HSI remains vigilant to ensure the integrity of U.S. immigration laws and will continue to investigate this and other transnational crimes.'”
It seems much like a chicken and egg situation since without the phony university set up by ICE it would have been impossible for the defendants to recruit others to enroll in the fraudulent program. It’s as if the DEA recruited people to sell drugs that they provided and then busted their recruits for possession of those same drugs they were given to sell.
Without knowing more details of ICE’s recruitment process in setting up their sting, it’s difficult to know how complicit the defendants actually are in the scheme. Either way, ICE’s deception in setting up a fake college shows the legacy of President Trump who famously profited from a similar phony curriculum at Trump University until he was caught and brought to court, ending that venture unceremoniously.
If ICE is indeed trying to coerce students into enrolling at a fake school and inducing foreign students to break immigration law so they can later be deported, they are serving the ethnic cleansing agenda that white nationalists — and President Trump — want to see enacted in this country. And the right-wing wonders why progressives are calling for the abolition of ICE and its replacement with an immigration enforcement agency that hasn’t been tainted with extremist ideology.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.
Original reporting by Niraj Warikoo at The Detroit Free Press.