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US: groups call for Farmington settlement

Prominent groups representing South Asian students have called for a settlement agreement to restore student tuition money to those who unknowingly signed up to a fake university created by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Rights groups claim one student was awoken by ICE agents and detained for almost two months without any advance notice given.

The letter claims that all but one of the students was of Indian descent

South Asian groups including SAALT, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Center for Security, Race and Rights, and over 40 other rights organisations signed a letter calling for a settlement to return student tuition money and immigration benefits to those who applied for the so-called “University of Farmington”, set up by ICE to catch fraudulent recruiters.

“The University of Farmington, set up to supposedly expose student visa fraud, led to the entrapment of Indian students who were eventually detained without due process, and whose tuition and fees totalling over six million dollars were seized by DHS,” the letter reads.

According to the letter, all of the students were of Indian descent, aside from one from Palestine.

While video evidence was released in 2020 showing that some students did know that the law was being broken in the process of applying to the fake university, it was never proven that all students were implicated.

“ICE began terminating students’ immigration status, claiming that any student who enrolled in the University had knowingly participated in visa fraud… we find this action by ICE to be targeting students for their national origin,” the statement continues.

It also claims one student was awoken by ICE agents and detained for almost two months without any advance notice given.

“The students who enrolled… were simply attempting to pursue their education”

The call for a settlement in the case of Farmington follows a settlement that was started earlier this year regarding a previous sting set up by the US government, the University of Northern New Jersey.

The class action settlement was proposed between the federal immigration authorities and “hundreds” of foreign nationals, most of Chinese or Indian nationality, and said that the government would pay $450,000 in legal fees but not admit any wrongdoing.

While a hearing was scheduled for May 2 of this year, no further updates have been provided.

Mentioning the UNNJ in its letter, the group of organisations accused the Department of Justice of “effectively condoning ICE’s actions of entrapping students and depriving them of their constitutional rights”.

“DHS should not be utilising taxpayer funds to conduct operations and activities that target and entrap people.

“We support efforts that call for investigations into DHS’ operations with respect to the University of Farmington, and that seek redress for the affected students,” the letter reads.

“The students who enrolled… were simply attempting to pursue their education at what they believed to be legitimate and accredited university in the United States.

“These students suffered a great injustice at the hands of ICE,” it added.

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