The US Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has indicated that it is ready to consider reinstating the immigration status of those Indian students, who have lost their student visas due to the closure of a California-based "sham" university.
"We received a message from ICE today, in which they indicated that they would consider the possibility of reinstatement of their (students) visa status through I-539," Susmita Gongulee Thomas, Consul General, Indian Consulate San Francisco, told PTI.
I-539 is the form used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for visa extension and change of immigration status.
When one is out of the visa status for one reason or the other under a particular law of the US and the individual is not in criminal violation, USCIS may agree to give the reinstatement of his or her status under this form.
Duped by the authorities of the Tri-Valley University, which has now been shut down, hundreds of Indian students, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, faced the threat of being deported back home after having lost their student visa status.
However, no immediate detail of ICE's one-liner to Indian Consulate in San Francisco was available.
Thomas hoped that more details and clarification on this would be available from ICE early next week.
She said all indications are that this is not going to be a general amnesty and ICE would consider the request for status change or visa extension on a case by case basis.
"It seems quite positive that they are willing to consider at least the possibility of reinstating of some of the students," Thomas said.
"I think it will be case by case basis, because earlier we had clarified that there is nothing like the general amnesty. It would be case by case, because they feel that there might be some students who are in criminal violation of the immigration," she added.
Meanwhile, nearly 150 Tri-Valley students turned up for the free legal aid camp organised by the Indian Consulate in San Francisco in association with the South Asian Bar Association (SABA).
Two immigration lawyers along with one civil and one criminal lawyer from SABA spend several hours with these students on a one-on-one basis yesterday.
The lawyers counseled the students that since many of them are in the US for the first time, they are not aware of how they can undermine their own rights under the US law and give away their immunities and privileges if they talk inadvertently and without thinking.
"They (attorneys) have advised us to tell the students that they should not speak to ICE or to the media without consulting an attorney or a lawyer," Thomas said.
She said the choice to speak to them is always there, but they should be advised about their own safety and their privileges and how they should put across their case without compromising their own rights in the matter.
Thomas said so far 18 Tri-Valley Students have been radio-ankled and no fresh case has been brought to the notice of the Consulate so far.
Ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signal containing location and other information to a receiver.
Thomas said students are anxious that they would be able to miss out a complete semester and worried they would be out of status and how that would affect their future abilities to get visas and admission in the universities.
"They are worried how they would sustain themselves if they are not able to work anymore and this is going to be very expensive. They are worried about legal process," said the Consul General.
Acknowledging that it has been a very telling time for the students, Thomas said effort is being made to provide them legal status and advice from others who can help them.
She said the meeting with the lawyers was very helpful to the students and were advised that they should wait till the middle of next week before taking any decision.
"Before they think of walking out voluntarily or just going out of the State as that could worsen their situation and the note that ICE has promised to give options to students, which they might prefer to exercise rather than going in for a central confrontation," Thomas said.