Even as Indian missions in the US are making all efforts to help hundreds of students caught up in an immigration scam by a sham university, diplomats acknowledge that most of them ignored several red flags.
Officially the Indian stand seems to be that the duped Indian students of
Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, California, came to the US with valid travel documents and followed due procedure in changing their visa status in transfer to the university.
The university came under the authorities' scanner in May 2010, a year after it opened in the course of an investigation of a property matter, and as late as September 2010 US consulates in India issued student visas on the basis of admission to Tri-Valley.
Thus the official Indian argument has been that the students went through valid procedure and any problem between the university and US authorities should be sorted out at the earliest and Indian students should not be victimised.
But knowledgeable sources acknowledge that none of the students ever complained about the university run from a single room with just "13 laptops and five desktops" for over 1500 engineering students on its rolls!
There is not a single page on its website that doesn't have spelling and grammatical errors. Yet not only did the students, 90% of them from India, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, joined it in droves, but also got to transfers to it from other universities.
All because the university offered them "flexibility" in terms of attendance and gave them "work permits" in the name of "study visas" that they used to work all over the country. They simply ignored the fact that a student must attend the institution and can work only on the campus for 20 hours a week.
"No one complained because they thought it was a good thing going for them," an Indian official quipped.
The Director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has spoken to Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar and the embassy has also taken up the matter of ankle monitors that some 18 students have been forced to wear with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.
But Washington has rejected New Delhi's demand for the removal of ankle bracelets saying "this is widespread across the United States and standard procedure for a variety of investigations. It does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity,"
"An ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signal containing location and other information to a receiver. It allows for freedom of movement and is a positive alternative to confinement during a pending investigation," the state department explained after India expressed strong concern about students being treated like 'criminals'.
The Indian missions are also organizing free legal aid clinics for the students.
But except for a "small number" of students who are under investigation, the choice before other duped students is essentially to get admission in another recognised institution or accept voluntary deportation and apply afresh for a student visa through a real school.