“US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is aware of the allegations and has no further comment at this time,” Sarah Loicano, a public affairs officer with Homeland Security, told The PIE News.
All of the international education program directors from Washington colleges were called to a meeting about a month ago to discuss the problem. At least two Seattle-area community colleges, Edmonds and Tacoma, were affected. The meeting was organised by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which is part of Homeland Security’s national security investigations division.
“US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is aware of the allegations”
A large number of students from Bangladesh applied to the colleges, received their I-20 eligibility form and enrolled. However, before starting classes some of the students transferred to other Washington schools. It’s not known whether they ever began classes or simply disappeared to work in the underground economy.
Students with an I-20 form are restricted in the number of hours they can work since their focus is supposed to be on studying.
The large number of applications from Bangladesh should have been a red flag for the Washington State colleges. The country ranks 147th in the world with a per capita GDP of just $1,564. Few can afford the expense of studying and living in the US. For example, Edmonds says the cost for tuition, housing and other expenses is $20,522 for a single academic year running from September to June.
The flood of students from Bangladesh was reportedly organised by one or more unscrupulous educational agents based in that country. In 2019, the SEVP announced a new policy that students – not their agents – must directly receive the I-20 documents. It said the change was “for reasons of privacy, security and fraud prevention.”
The two community colleges, Edmonds and Tacoma, did not respond to a request for comment about the situation.