The United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement has removed radio tags from three more Indian students of the now shut down Tri Valley University in California and also returned their passports.
Susmita Gongulee Thomas, consul general of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, said the ICE has returned the passports of these three students along with the two others, from whom radio tags were removed last week. US authorities have removed radio tags from five of the 18 Indian students.
These students were taken to ICE by two immigration attorneys -- Kalpana Peddibhotla and Manpreet Gahra. Encouraged by the positive development, Thomas said 10 more students would be taken to ICE next week by these two immigration attorneys and they are very optimistic of the same positive outcome.
"Five of the 18 students are now free of the radio tags. Students were feeling very badly about them. It was humiliating to go around with these tags," said Thomas.
The two immigration attorneys -- Kalpana Peddibhotla and Manpreet Gahra -- are from the South Asian Bar Association, who in association with the Consulate had held a free legal aid camp for the Tri Valley Students.
"Our primary concern and priority was to get these radio tags removed," she said.
Thomas said community organisations in the Bay area, especially the Telugu Association of North America, have been supporting these students in distress. She urged other community organisations to come forward with their resources to help these students.
The Consul General said the TVU students are from various parts of the country, not only from Andhra Pradesh alone.
"There are students from Kerala; some are from (West) Bengal. Some are from Madhya Pradesh. Some are Gujaratis," she said.
Acknowledging that the closure of the California-based Tri Valley University is causing great inconvenience to a large number of Indian students, US authorities have said there was a strong indication that 'visa fraud has occurred' and the matter has to be probed.
The US fully understands that the closure of this university has put in limbo the academic career of Indian students, State Department spokesman P J Crowley said, adding that the issue has been a subject of discussion between New Delhi and Washington.
"We have strong suspicions that visa fraud has occurred. It is a matter of great concern to us as a country. It's a matter of great concern to India as a country. We will seek to resolve this as quickly as we can. We will pledge to keep Indian authorities fully informed. But we have to go through this investigation first," he said.
"We have ongoing concerns both in this case and more broadly about instances of visa fraud. We need to continue to investigate how these things happen and try to do everything we can to prevent them from occurring in the future," Crowley said.
"We do understand that there are students who have been caught up in this. It has been the subject of discussions with Secretary Clinton and others and also with the Indian embassy here, our embassy in India. We will cooperate as much as we can with the Indian government as we move ahead here. But it's hard to know exactly what is possible because the matter is still under investigation," he said.
"We have reiterated over the course of the last several days our commitment to work very closely with the Indian government. We understand the concerns the government has. We want to resolve these cases and those that are just ensnared in somebody else's fraud. We understand that they've been put in kind of a limbo status as a result of this. We regret that very much," Crowley said.