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ICE Arrests Around 250 'Students' in Sting Visa Mill Operation

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Posted: Nov 28, 2019 10:25 AM
ICE Arrests Around 250 'Students' in Sting Visa Mill Operation

Source: Courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Fake schools, known as "visa mills," are making loads of money by selling student visas to foreigners looking for a fast way to stay and work in the United States. 

There are several such visa mills operating across the country. Unlike other colleges and universities that also have large foreign-student populations, visa mills provide little, if any, educational benefit to those enrolled. Rather, visa mills, many of which operate as 501(c)(3)s, cost Americans millions in lost tax revenue and take jobs away from American workers.

In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided to create a visa mill of their own in Michigan to see how many crooked foreigners they could snag. The number was startling. The Detroit Free Press reported on Wednesday that U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) has arrested around 250 students on immigration violations in the sting operation between January and July of this year. 

Of those 250 arrests, "nearly 80% were granted voluntary departure and departed the United States," the Detroit office of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations told the Free Press in a statement. And about half of the remaining 20 percent have received final orders of removal.

Eight recruiters were also criminally charged with recruiting foreign "students" to the fake university, and seven of those recruiters have already pleaded guilty. The eighth recruiter is scheduled to be sentenced in January. According to The New York Times, prosecutors in the case say the recruiters collected more than $250,000 from "students" for referring the student to the fake school in Michigan. 

The indictments say the fake school had no instructors and no actual classes. 

"Each of the foreign citizens who 'enrolled' and made 'tuition' payments to the University knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits, or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study," the indictments states.

In a similar sting operation in 2013, DHS set up the University of Northern New Jersey to nab foreigners involved in student visa fraud. Twenty-one arrests were made of similar recruiters who helped more than 1,000 foreigners obtain visas during the two-and-a-half years the fake school existed. During that time period no one cared why there were no instructors, no classes, no degree programs, and no graduation ceremonies. 

In a letter to then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in March 2018, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote that dozens of so-called schools in the United States are suspected of being visa mills and listed four, in particular, the senator described as a representative sample: Silicon Valley University, Northwestern Polytechnic University, Stratford University, and the University of North America. 

In 2018, there were 1,840,482 non-immigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. With such large numbers of foreign students, it's no wonder visa mills find it so easy and lucrative to operate in the shadows. 

When news of the arrests and the sting operation broke, leftists on Twitter called for the abolition of ICE. But if foreigners can pretend to be students, why can't DHS pretend to be a school?