University of Farmington
The University of Farmington was a fake university set up in 2015 in Michigan by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to expose student visa fraud in the United States. The sting operation, which was code-named "Paper Chase", was overseen by the United States Department of Homeland Security. Over 600 individuals were identified in the operation, many of whom face deportation from the United States for visa violations.
|Motto||Latin: Scientia et labor|
The sting was disclosed to the public on January 30, 2019, with The Detroit News reporting about the Dept. of Homeland Security and ICE HSI arresting eight "recruiters" of Indian nationality and charging them on grounds of visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. They allegedly made more than $250,000 from the university, in exchange for recruiting students. By early February 2019, 130 students (129 of whom were from the two Telugu speaking states, Andhra and Telangana Of India) from multiple cities were also arrested for violation of immigration laws and might be subject to deportation, on a successful conviction. In March, ICE announced that the total number of students arrested was 161.
According to the prosecutors, the students enrolled in the university solely to maintain their student-visa status and lengthen their stay in the U.S., despite being aware "that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits or make academic progress towards an actual degree." Others have noted that the university was listed as a legitimate school on the Department of Homeland Security website.
The University of Farmington's headquarters was in the basement of the North Valley office complex located at 30500 Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills. Its website claimed to "provide students from throughout the world a unique educational experience" and had academic program details along with other allied information. It also claimed to be accredited by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and was also apparently authorized by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program to admit foreign students. The Times of India noted that there was hardly any way for prospective students to distinguish the institution from a real university, at least from its web presence. The university had a Twitter presence and the university's website featured updates such as bad weather alerts, in addition to program details and tuition pricing. The yearly fee for undergraduates was $8,500, significantly lower than many other US institutions. The university did not have any instructors or actual classes.
According to Matt Friedman, who worked in the same complex, the university had no classrooms and he never saw anyone there. Other people who work in the same building doubted the prosecutors' version of everybody being willfully involved and asserted to have seen students arriving with backpacks and inquiring about the university, but struggling for any resolution.
Ravi Mannam, an immigration lawyer based in Atlanta, criticized the operation as "misleading" and accused the government of utilizing "very questionable and troubling methods to get these foreign students to join the institution", since some students were under the impression that their enrollment was being made in a legitimate program. Similar concerns have been echoed from various Indian news publications.
India has issued a démarche asking for the immediate release of the students and requesting against any non-voluntary deportation. Some of the students were apparently released after an intervention by the Indian Consulate, which has also opened a hotline.
- Noori Farzan, Antonia (January 31, 2019). "ICE set up a fake university. Hundreds enrolled, not realizing it was a sting operation". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- Mervosh, Sarah (January 31, 2019). "ICE Ran a Fake University in Michigan to Catch Immigration Fraud". The New York Times.
- Warikoo, Niraj (January 30, 2019). "Farmington Hills fake university set up by ICE to nab foreign students". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- Sudhir, Uma (January 31, 2019). "8 Indians Caught In Visa Scam In US Undercover Op, Many Face Deportation". NDTV.com. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- "Feds used fake Michigan university in immigration sting". The Detroit News. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- Raj, Yashwant (January 31, 2019). "Hundreds of Indian students face jail, deportation in US college scam". Hindustan Times. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- Snell, Robert (January 30, 2019). "Feds used fake Michigan university in immigration sting". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on January 31, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- "US visa fraud case: Fear, anxiety grip parents back in Andhra". The New Indian Express. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- "US fake university sting angers India". BBC News. February 3, 2019. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- "ICE fake university: 'It's entrapment', say Indians reacting to news of 130 students arrested across 20 US cities". Firstpost. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- Warikoo, Niraj (March 8, 2019). "ICE arrests more students at fake university, others being removed from US". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
- "ICE arrests 90 more foreign students at fake university created by DHS in Michigan". USA Today. November 27, 2019. Retrieved November 27, 2019.
- "The University of Farmington". web page. Internet Archive. Archived from the original on August 29, 2018.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- "Factoids". The University of Farmington. January 31, 2019. Archived from the original on January 31, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- "US fake university racket: Students had no way to check Farmington's authenticity". The Times of India. Archived from the original on February 4, 2019. Retrieved February 4, 2019. [copy on archive.org of an article originally hosted at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/students-had-no-way-to-check-university-of-farmingtons-authenticity/articleshow/67823186.cms]
- "The University Of Farmington Isn't Real. It's A Complex Federal Sting Operation". NPR. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
- Lakshman, Sriram (January 31, 2019). "Indians arrested, students detained in U.S. on visa fraud charges". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- "Indians studying in a fraudulent university arrested". Business Standard India. Press Trust of India. January 31, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
- "Students were handcuffed like criminals & taken away". The New Indian Express. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- "Indian body fumes at DHS 'bait & catch' move against students". The Times of India. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- "India issues demarche to US on detention of students: Officials from the Indian embassy and consulates in the US visited several detention centres and about 30 students have so far been contacted by consular officers". Hindustan Times. New Delhi. February 3, 2019.
- "Indian Embassy Opens Hotline For 129 Students Detained In US Visa Scam". NDTV.com. Retrieved February 4, 2019.