For Immediate Release

August 9, 2022

Contacts:

Arianna Rosales, National Immigration Project, arianna@nipnlg.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than 40 social justice organizations sent a letter today to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) demanding an investigation into DHS' operations related to the University of Farmington and redress for the students who were targeted. In conjunction with the letter, attorneys representing the students also filed a civil rights complaint with the agency.

The University of Farmington, set up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and overseen by DHS to supposedly expose student visa fraud, led to the entrapment of around 600 students who were eventually detained without due process, and whose tuition and fees totaling over six million dollars were seized by DHS. All of the students who were targeted by ICE were of Indian descent, aside from one student from Palestine.

"International students who were mostly from humble backgrounds and vulnerable because of the broken immigration system, were preyed upon by the government," said a former Farmington student who asked to remain anonymous for his safety. "We students are only asking for justice," said Kumar, another survivor of the Farmington scheme.

"Regardless of presidential administrations, the exploitation and criminalization of immigrants continues. ICE set up this fake university to bait and trap immigrant students under the Obama Administration. They were exposed under the Trump Administration and should finally be held accountable now by the Biden Administration. These students were specifically targeted for their national origin, a trademark of DHS. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta has the power to immediately restore the over six million dollars in tuition money stolen from these students. By doing so, she could begin to improve the current administration's dismal track record on immigration," said Lakshmi Sridaran, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

"It is beyond abhorrent that a federal agency would utilize taxpayer funds to target, entrap, and criminalize people in this way," said Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Project. "To add insult to injury, by seizing the money the students spent in tuition and fees, the agency is attempting to make more than six million dollars in profit through this shameful scheme. We call on Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta to take swift action to rectify this grave injustice."

Kumar shared that the students and their allies would keep fighting for justice for as long as it takes, saying that, "We have faith in the justice system, but it takes time to get justice. We started the fire, it will burn for the next 20 years so that ICE/USCIS will not even think of doing this kind of fraud again. I want to thank you all for supporting the students and being on the right side to seek justice and this will not end at any point of time."

In 2013, ICE similarly created a fake university in New Jersey, ensnaring more than a thousand students in their fraudulent scheme. Following a multi-year class-action lawsuit, a legal settlement was reached in January 2022. Under the proposed deal, the government will pay $450,000 in legal fees and plaintiffs who saw their visas overturned after the sham was revealed may have their removal proceedings canceled by DHS and be allowed to apply for new visas or seek reinstatement to attend another school.

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The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. NIPNLG utilizes impact litigation, advocacy, and public education to pursue its mission. Learn more at nipnlg.org. Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter and Instagram.