This article was written by Anu Peshawaria, US Federal Immigration Lawyer, US Supreme Court & Supreme Court of India
Who is the best judge, India or United States?
Fears of mass deportation of Indian students in America is causing panic Fears of mass deportation have triggered a panic among friends and families of Indian students arrested and detained by the US immigration authorities. Our office has been inundated with calls from worried parents, relatives and friends of these students. Although the action by the Department of Homeland Security appears to have some identifiable ground, the fact that it comes in the midst of growing anti-immigrant sentiments is not helping matters. Even as the lure of coming to America and studying here with the prospects of settling down here will largely remain intact, many among the immigration attorney community and beyond have been wondering whether the tradeoff is too high. The question that I personally ask is “Is it really worth it?” The answer, of course, has to be an individual determination but those in India aspiring to come here must bear in mind how careful they have to be while navigating the complex set of laws.
What is exacerbating the problem is unscrupulous agents pretending to be educational advisors whose sole objective is to make as much as they can even if it means shortchanging the futures of unsuspecting young students from often small towns in India.
During my interactions with India’s Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla in Washington DC, I make it a point to advise him on the need to draw a distinction between those involved in recruiting or enrolling students and students who were duped or defrauded in the process.
We need to also understand that when the US government sets up an agency solely for the purpose of rooting out visa fraud we must review possible entrapment and manipulation across all federal jurisdictions. Fortunately, the court has the power to ameliorate the harshness of a sentence driven entirely by government conduct. The “touchstone” of due process is protection of the individual against the arbitrary action of government.
It is not our contention that the students are not at fault. They should have done their due diligence before signing up in a fake university which was set up for the express purpose of bringing in students willing to cut corners. If they are perpetrating crime knowingly, they should be punished but if they are trapped or encouraged to commit the crime then we need to help them.
Moreover, some students are worried that they will have arrest on their record forever and have lost years of education to no avail. They could be vulnerable to possible blackmail for the rest of their lives. What is surprising is that the university was registered with the education board that authorizes the issuance of I-20s to students, which in turn is approved by the Department of Homeland Security. That is quite an extraordinary action.
Worse, based on their approved I-20s the students even got driver licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This only added another stamp of authenticity to the credentials of the university. Even if there are students who were all too willing to circumvent requirements to lawfully stay in America, there are also those who were genuinely duped by the appearance of authenticity. It is a measure of the sincerity of many students that they traveled to meet the Dean of the fake university near Detroit, Michigan. They asked for class curriculum. Given that authorities knew this was a set-up, they should have stopped the students there and then. If they wanted to catch the perpetrators, what right do they have to defraud innocent lives?
It also bears pointing out that the government collected taxes that these consultants. It seems disingenuous to put all behind bars.
Many students have huge loans to pay. They were saving up to send to their families in small villages in India. They are devastated. It is easy to say that students knew what they were doing. It may be true in several cases but to argue that all did is stretching our belief. Did we all know all the laws when we moved to United States? According to the students, the Department of Homeland Security knowingly allowed the
‘fake university’ to be set up and misled students sitting thousands of miles away in another country. We are all fighting to release the students immediately. The students are calling to tell me that the US government is forcing them to “self deport” but they want back their degrees and lost time and compensation for pain and anguish. The fate of the students is hanging in the balance. We are trying our best to save the students from falling prey to immigration politics which is currently taking its toll in America.
In my opinion, we need to know more before we conclude who is responsible for this misadventure so that it can be prevented. We must establish expeditiously how did this happened. What precautions were not taken and by whom? What coordination was missing on both sides, students and the fake university? What due diligence was missing on the visa front on both ends? These questions need urgent and accurate answers.