The US state department said Monday Indian students enrolled at a phony university busted recently had sought to stay here “illegally”, with the help of a “criminal organisation”.
But it gave no details of the punitive action they face as a result. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had said earlier the estimated 306 Indians could be arrested and deported.
The Indian embassy has urged the US to not arrest or deport the students and give them another chance to continue their studies at a legitimate university, as has been done before.
They were already in the US and studied at legitimate universities on F-1 student visas before enrolling at the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), a phony institution set up by undercover government agents. According to authorities, they switched to UNNJ to extend their stay either on student visa or to find employment on H-1B visa.
“They did come here legitimately, on legitimate visas,” state department spokesman Mark Toner said at the daily briefing Monday in response to a question about the students. “It’s not about a visa issue,” he went on. “It’s about once they were here in the United States, they then sought through a criminal organisation to extend their stay.” And, this, he added, “was an important clarification”.
USCIS announced last week the arrest of 21 people, including 10 Indians, who enrolled over 1,000 students at UNNJ, set up in 2013 as part of a sting operation.
UNNJ had no instructors or educators, no curriculum, and conducted no classes or education activities. And that was known to everyone, including the students.
What was not known to them, however, was the fact that the university was being run by undercover government agents investigating the network and those behind it. These students were brought to the university by brokers, agents and recruiters — of Indian and Chinese descent or origin — who have been arrested and are facing criminal charges.