by Harshvardhan Vathsangam
About 1500 Indian students, many from the state of Andhra Pradesh, face deportation following a major immigration bust involving their college, Tri-Valley University. The university was raided and shut down by the U.S. government on charges of immigration fraud.
The university, which is ironically located in a city named Pleasanton, California, allegedly made millions of dollars by issuing visa-related documents and enabling foreign students to obtain illegal student immigration status.
According to the official complaint, more than 95 percent of the university’s students were from India. What tipped off immigration authorities was that more than half the students reported their address as the same single apartment in Sunnyvale. The apartment manager told immigration agents that only four university students lived there from June 2007 to August 2009 and none since.
Investigations by immigration authorities have revealed that even though students were enrolled in courses at the university and on paper lived in California, in reality they worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas.
The incident has since snowballed into a diplomatic thorn in the flesh between the U.S. and India over the treatment of the students.
What has really incensed both local and Indian community leaders is that some of the affected students were made to wear radio tags to keep track of their locations. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for its part has justified the use of these tags as standard procedure that does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity.
The U.S. ICE, along with the Embassy of India, Washington D.C., has established a series of support measures including a helpline for the Indian students affected by the closure of Tri-Valley University, which any affected student may call to seek help.
The Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, on the other hand, has criticized the move, saying that while the Indian government supports severe action against University officials, it is inappropriate and unfair to force the collars on students. The situation, he said, effectively boils down to treating them as common criminals when they themselves have been duped by promoters of the university.
“The students who came in good faith, they should not be victimized. It is necessary they should be absorbed into other universities in the United States and allowed to pursue their studies,” Krishna said while addressing reporters.
Both countries are working in earnest to address the plight of affected students.
The university has termed these allegations as “baseless” and claimed that it had not duped any student, instead opting to blame a staff member for the entire episode. The truth lies in between.
Meanwhile, time is ticking for those legitimate students caught in this chaos as they seek admission into other colleges or face deportation.