ICE criticized for ‘entrapping’ immigrants by luring them to fake university

People are horrified by the latest news of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting operation.

As first reported by the Detroit Free Press, ICE created a fake university and had it accredited to lure foreign students, mostly from India, to enroll. Now, over 90 more would-be graduate students of the University of Farmington have been arrested for immigration violations. At least 250 people have been arrested in the sting. The operation began in 2017, according to NPR.

Many have since accepted voluntary removal or been deported, even those who reportedly transferred to legitimate schools upon learning of the scam. A few are contesting the removals.

ICE reportedly kept all tuition money, believed to total millions of dollars cumulatively.

When news of the sting was first reported last winter, India’s government urged the immediate release of the detained immigrants.

Attorneys for the students accuse ICE of entrapment because the students came here legally to attend an accredited school listed as such on the Department of Homeland Security website.

ICE “trapped the vulnerable people who just wanted to maintain (legal immigration) status,” attorney Rahul Reddy, who represented or advised some of those arrested, told the Free Press. “They preyed upon on them.”

ICE and Department of Justice attorneys said that the students should’ve known the school wasn’t legitimate because they didn’t spend any time in the classroom. “If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services,” read a sentencing memo for one of the recruiters who were criminally charged.

The story led to renewed calls to abolish ICE and thousands of #AbolishICE tweets. It also inspired numerous comparisons to Trump University.

Many critics blamed the Trump administration, which has taken a harsh, some would say racist, approach to immigration reform as exemplified by the Muslim ban, border wall, and family separations. Trump’s defenders countered that the sham school was incorporated in 2016 during Obama’s term. Arrests began in February 2017, according to the New York Times.

“This is entrapment,” tweeted Chicago Committee Against War and Racism.

“Horrifying,” said Qasim Rashid. “…How is this not de facto entrapment? Utterly shameless.”

It is unknown whether the sting operation will continue.

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Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth

Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.