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Judge rules students may sue US gov’t over fake university created by ICE

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In a recent ruling, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court determined that foreign students who were duped into enrolling at a fake college in Michigan set up by federal agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have the right to sue the U.S. government. ICE officials established the fictitious University of Farmington in 2015 as an undercover operation to target students suspected of illegally extending their visas.

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The university had a fabricated office, website and an admissions process that closely resembled legitimate institutions.

Hundreds of students, primarily from India and legally residing in the country, enrolled at what they believed was the University of Farmington, hoping to pursue studies in technology and science. However, in 2020, the government arrested and deported nearly 250 of these students.

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Despite being legally present on F-1 student visas, these students were scammed out of more than $11,000 in tuition fees. One student, Teja Ravi, paid $12,500 to the fake university after contacting it in the fall of 2018. He neither attended any classes nor completed assignments.

The decision states the student “was unaware that the university was not a university at all but had been formed and advertised to offer educational services for money — though not actually provide them — as an undercover operation of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to target fraud involving student visas. the government’s operation eventually came to light but the government neither provided the paid-for education nor gave Mr. Ravi his money back.”

Lawyers representing the students argue that they were falsely led to believe the school was legitimate. The ICE website even listed the University of Farmington among schools approved by the U.S. government for foreign students.

Approximately 600 students lost their visas and some were held in immigration detention centers, according to lawyers. Despite the court ruling, the Department of Homeland Security has yet to respond to the court’s decision.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

FOREIGN STUDENTS DUPED INTO ENROLLING AT A FAKE COLLEGE IN MICHIGAN – SET UP BY FEDERAL AGENTS WITH US IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT – CAN SUE THE U.S. GOVERNMENT – A THREE-JUDGE PANEL OF A FEDERAL APPEALS COURT RULED.

ICE OFFICIALS CREATED THE FAKE SCHOOL IN 2015 AS AN UNDERCOVER OPERATION TO TARGET STUDENTS THEY SAID WERE ATTEMPTING TO ILLEGALLY EXTEND THEIR VISAS. THE PRETEND UNIVERSITY HAD A FAKE OFFICE AND WEBSITE — AND EVEN CREATED AN ADMISSIONS PROCESS THAT LOOKED LIKE ANY OTHER SCHOOL.

HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS – IN THE COUNTRY LEGALLY AND MOST OF THEM FROM INDIA – ENROLLED AT WHAT THEY BELIEVED TO BE “THE UNIVERSITY OF FARMINGTON” WITH THE HOPES OF STUDYING TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE.

STUDENTS FILED A LAWSUIT IN 2020 AFTER THE GOVERNMENT ARRESTED AND DEPORTED NEARLY 250 OF THEM. 

THE STUDENTS WERE IN THE COUNTRY LEGALLY ON F-1 STUDENT VISAS WHEN THEY ENROLLED.

ON TOP OF THAT – STUDENTS SAY THEY WERE SCAMMED OUT OF MORE THAN $11-THOUSAND DOLLARS IN TUITION MONEY.

ONE STUDENT NAMED -MR. RAVI- SAID HE CONTACTED THE UNIVERSITY IN THE FALL OF 2018 TO RECEIVE A CLASS SCHEDULE – ONLY TO ULTIMATELY NOT ATTEND ANY CLASSES OR COMPLETE ANY ASSIGNMENTS. THE STUDENT PAID THE FAKE UNIVERSITY $12,500.

THE DECISION STATES THE STUDENT “WAS UNAWARE THAT THE UNIVERSITY WAS NOT A UNIVERSITY AT ALL BUT HAD BEEN FORMED AND ADVERTISED TO OFFER EDUCATIONAL SERVICES FOR MONEY – THOUGH NOT ACTUALLY PROVIDE THEM – AS AN UNDERCOVER OPERATION OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (DHS) TO TARGET FRAUD INVOLVING STUDENT VISAS. THE GOVERNMENT’S OPERATION EVENTUALLY CAME TO LIGHT BUT THE GOVERNMENT NEITHER PROVIDED THE PAID-FOR EDUCATION NOR GAVE MR. RAVI HIS MONEY BACK.”

THE STUDENTS ARGUE THEY WERE FALSELY LED TO BELIEVE THE SCHOOL WAS REAL.

THE ICE WEBSITE EVEN INCLUDED IT ON ITS LIST OF SCHOOLS APPROVED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS.

LAWYERS SAY THEY ENROLLED “UNDER THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THEY WOULD BE COMPLETING A FULL EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM, BUT THE CLASSES NEVER MATERIALIZED.”

A LAWYER REPRESENTING ONE OF THE STUDENTS WROTE A MEMO SAY APPROXIMATELY 600 STUDENTS LOST THEIR VISAS AND SOME WERE HELD IN IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTERS.

THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY HAS NOT RESPONDED TO THE DECISION.

FOR SAN, I’M LAUREN TAYLOR.

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