DETROIT (AP) — Officials from an Indian-American cultural group say they’re concerned about the arrests of Indian students who were enrolled at a phony university in Detroit that was created by the government to bust an immigration scam.
Federal authorities in January announced that the University of Farmington was fake and created by the Department of Homeland Security to catch people making money by helping foreigners live in the U.S. on student visas while enrolled at bogus schools.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested more than 160 foreign students on civil immigration violations, agency spokesman Khaalid Walls told the Detroit Free Press .
Many of the students have been removed from the country or are in the process of removal, Walls said. More students could be arrested or removed since enforcement action remains ongoing, he said.
Most of the 600 students enrolled were from Telugu-speaking regions of India. The Indian government has said it is closely monitoring the situation and expressed concerns that some of the students may have been duped by recruiters.
The hundreds of students who haven’t been arrested are worried about their futures and many have chosen to leave the country voluntarily, which could allow them to return to the U.S., according to immigration attorneys.
The American Telugu Association, which aims to connect people who speak Telugu and promote their culture, is struggling to track all of the students and is concerned about the conditions they’re facing in jail, said the group’s president, Parmesh Bheemreddy. Students are being housed at 34 detention centers across the U.S., the association said.
Many of the students have lost weight in detention because they’re vegetarians for cultural and religious reasons, Bheemreddy said. Most of the students come from poor backgrounds and had to take out loans to come to the U.S. and “pursue the American dream,” he said.
“These are innocent girls and boys,” Bheemreddy said of the students. “They’re not criminals. It’s mentally and physically torturing. It is a life-changing event for them.”