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What do I tell my father, asks duped student

world Updated: Feb 03, 2011 23:58 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Yashwant Raj

A student of Tri-Valley University has said he was picked up from his New York apartment Monday morning, taken into a waiting car handcuffed and treated as a common criminal before being freed 48 hours later.

He didn’t give his name.

But let’s call him Reddy. He is one of the victims of Tri-Valley University bellying up under investigation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security.

He responded to a mail to a closed google group of Tri-Valley students by HT, which was tossed out within hours of being let in because of the group’s growing worries about rules.

He didn’t wish to be identified because, one, he doesn’t want to anger the authorities. And, two, he has not had the courage to tell his parents yet.

“What do I tell my father,” Reddy he asked, “that I am in trouble..that I need more money.” He fears for his father’s health. But he knows he will have to tell them soon enough.

This 25-year-old from Hyderabad came to the US to study healthcare management at the University of Northern Virigina last summer. But transferred to Tri-Valley University in California in September.

Lower tution fee was his main reason for choosing Tri-Valley.

The difference in fee — $5,500 a year against $9,000 — was a crucial.

The university was shut down by the authorities on January 21 for allegedly violating immigration rules by offering foreigners — specially from India — an easy entry into the US, for a consideration.

But how did he hear of this university, which was not exactly Ivy League?

From an Indian-origin lawyer in New York, Reddy said. He mentioned a name, which will not be printed as he couldn’t be contacted for comments.

“He told me, this new university is good and that he would help with the processing of my application.” The lawyer was true to his word. Reddy was on the rolls of Tri-Valley in September.

But red flags began popping up soon enough.

There were no on-site classes, for one. The classes were held online, albeit live, from somewhere in the US. And, two, when he asked for a receipt for the bank transfer of the tuition fee, he never got one. “I was always told the server was down, which seemed strange.”

Suspicious, he decided to take a transfer. Tri-Valley told him to wait as the necessary accreditation was coming. It never came.

The university was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on January 19. And the game was up. This man, like hundreds of others, turned into a ‘criminal’.

Three ICE agents walked into his Long Island apartment looking for his room-mate, also a Tri-Valley student. But he had finished his course, and left for India. Anxious and worried that Reddy was, he offered himself to the agents, saying he was also a Tri-Valley student. “They handcuffed me,” he said.

At the Federal Plaza office he was asked, he said, to sign some papers, which he did. He said he had trouble following the instructions because of the officers’ accent.

Later in the evening, he was transferred to another facility and then to the Hudson County Correctional Centre in New Jersey — this time, cuffs around his wrists and ankles.

Reddy was asked to take off his clothes, which is mandatory for inmates checking in.

He said, voice choking with emotion, “I am a skinny guy... and I was cold, I told them.”

He was taken to a small room for the night, with four bunks and a toilet. The room was no bigger than a restroom, he said.

He waited for day break. He was released the next day in the evening.