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US to help Tri-Valley students pursue studies

February 09, 2011 15:53 IST
The United States immigration authorities on Wednesday asked the 1,555 students of the California-based Tri Valley University, which has been shut down on charges of visa fraud affecting hundreds of Indians, to contact them directly to find out the options they have to pursue their studies in this country.

"Immigration and customs enforcement has taken further steps to ensure that the student and exchange visitor programme-certified schools and former Tri-Valley students have the information that they need to make informed decisions in light of the ongoing investigation," said Lori K Haley, its spokeswoman.

The ICE has posted an advisory on the SEVP link on ICE's website -- http://www.ice.gov/sevis/tri-valley-110118.htm -- to direct students how to contact an SEVP representative to obtain information about their options. "When you call, the SEVP will provide you with your options including the option to depart from the US without an otherwise possibly applicable bar to re-admission in the future," says the advisory issued to the TVU students. Lori said due to the ongoing investigation, the ICE is not discussing the details related to the Tri-Valley case.

The SEVP terminated the records of all F-1 students enrolled at TVU as of January 18, after the ICE shut down TVU following an investigation. According to a federal complaint filed in a California court in January, the university helped foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status. The university is said to have 1,555 students.

As many as 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals, the complaint said. Investigations by the ICE found that while students were admitted to various residential and on-line courses of the university and on paper lived in California, but in reality they "illegally" worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The ICE has called it as a "sham university", a charge denied by the varsity. The ICE investigations found that more than half of these students were reported to be residing in a single apartment located in Sunnyvale California. During the course of the investigation, the ICE found that the university gave the residential address of its students in order to conceal that they did not live in California, said the court papers.

For a student to maintain an active immigration status, they must show proof that they are making reasonable process toward completing coursework and physically attend classes.

According to available reports, so far 18 Tri-Valley students have been radio-ankled; and at least a dozen detained in various parts of the country; while all of them have lost their student visa status. Strongly objecting to the manner in which Indian students are being treated, Indian embassy officials in Washington have argued that these students need to be treated in a humane manner and should not be made a victim of the federal investigation against Susan Su, the Tri-Valley University founder and president.

Earlier, John Morton, director, US ICE, had assured the Indian ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar, that the federal law enforcement agency would use "good judgment" and "common sense" while handling the case of hundreds of Indian students who have been affected by the closer of the California-based Tri-Valley University on charges of alleged immigration scam.

Morton had called Shankar after the Indian embassy in Washington lodged a strong protest against before it and other US agencies against the manner in which Indian students are being treated by ICE, including forcing them to wear radio tags, and suspension of Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, thus preventing them from taking admissions in other colleges and universities.
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