The University of Farmington seemed like any American university. Its website said it offered both online and traditional instruction with a focus on working students. It claimed to be nationally accredited. Happy students were shown studying and sharing coffee. There was nothing suspicious about it from afar.
It turned out to be very suspicious. It was set up in 2015 as an ICE undercover sting operation. The idea was to catch international students who were less interested in getting an education than in getting documents to prove they were enrolled in a full-time program. Many of the students who sought out Farmington wanted a chance at curricular practical training, or CPT, a program where students can work while pursuing their degrees.
The sting, which ran between May 2017 and January 2019, involved undercover ICE agents posing as staff. They apparently attracted recruiters for the school. Now, eight of these recruiters and at least 100 of at least 600 students have been arrested or are facing arrest warrants. Some students paid thousands of dollars in "tuition" to the recruiters in an effort to obtain documentation that they were enrolled full-time at Farmington.
Many of the students transferred to Farmington after legally entering the U.S. on legitimate F-1 visas after being accepted to other schools.
The eight recruiters are federally charged with conspiracy, immigration fraud and accepting cash and kickbacks to enroll students in the fake college. It is not yet clear what the students are charged with, but they are all under threat of deportation if convicted.
"Each of the students 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 to study -- a 'pay to stay scheme,'" the indictment reads.
Is this the best use of ICE's time and resources?
The United States government is currently cracking down hard on any immigration irregularities they can find. What once were considered minor immigration issues are now being treated like threats. Yes, immigration law needs to be enforced regularly and fairly, but exceptional enforcement measures are being taken.
Presumably, this sting was meant to catch people abusing the student visa process by attending fake schools. Yet the only group known to be operating a fake college is ICE itself.
Don't fall for scams. At Yew Immigration Law Group, we can help you locate an approved, accredited educational program that provides a real education. We have years of experience helping people come to the U.S. to study, work or join family.