Things That Matter

People Call To #AbolishICE After Finding Out The Agency Created A Fake University To Lure Students, Then Arrest Them

Roughly 10 months ago federal court documents were unsealed that showed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) created a fake university to lure immigrants with student visas into fraudulent behavior, according to the Washington Post. The University of Farmington was a fake school in Detroit, Michigan, where ICE agents worked as staff, there were no courses or teachers, and immigrants who had been in the U.S. with F1-visas were recruited.

Immigrant rights advocates believe ICE tricked these people into registering with the fake school, unbeknownst to them, so that they would falsely report they had enrolled in a real school to immigration services, ultimately resulting in the arrest of 250 people. ICE alleges that the students who enrolled knew the school was fake. 

In January, eight “recruiters” were charged with federal conspiracy. 

According to the Detroit Free Press, seven of the eight recruiters have pleaded guilty to aiding 600 students to live in the United States under false pretenses. Farmington alleged to be a graduate school with a focus on STEM. Most of the students were immigrants from India who entered on F1-Visas legally through acceptance to different schools. 

They transferred to the fake university and when the federal government shut it down, their visas expired with the school’s closure. However, the students’ lawyers allege they had no reason to believe what they were doing was illegal. 

“They should not punish these people who were lured into a trap,” Rahul Reddy, an attorney involved with the case, told the Detroit Free Press. “These people can’t even defend themselves properly because they’re not given the same rights in deportation proceedings.”

The Department of Homeland Security and a third party that accredits universities, listed Farmington as a certified school international students could attend.

ICE claims the students knew the university was fake and committed fraud to stay in the country.

“Undercover schools provide a unique perspective in understanding the ways in which students and recruiters try to exploit the non-immigrant student visa system,” ICE said in the statement.

According to prosecutors, the eight recruiters helped to create fraudulent records like transcripts to students to show to immigration officials. The recruiters received $250,000 in kickbacks, largely from undercover ICE agents. However, the university was entirely run by the government and it was the government that profited from the sting, according to Reddy. 

“They made a lot of money,” Reddy said, adding. “They preyed upon on them.”

Farmington tuition was on average $12,000 per year. The school’s website touted photos of classrooms and teachers, but none of those things actually existed or were conducted at the location. Since it opened in 2015, the fake university collected millions from students who never received an education. 

One of the recruiters, Prem Rampeesa, believed he was working with real school officials who turned out to be undercover agents, according to his attorney. He was sentenced to one year in prison with 295 days already served, after completion of his sentence he will be deported to India. 

“Their true intent could not be clearer,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in Rampeesa’s sentencing memo. “While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.”

However, students say they tried to attend classes and were confused that there weren’t any. 

Workers near Farmington told WXYZ that they saw plenty of students come by asking when school would start or complaining they could not get in contact with staff. For advocates this paints a clear picture, ICE created a school, claimed it was legitimate, got immigrants to transfer or enroll in it, refused to provide educational services, and arrested the students essentially for not figuring out the school was fake. 

A 2008 ICE handbook illustrates that ICE agents don’t have to follow the same rules as other members of law enforcement, for example, they are not advised to entrap individuals, but exceptions are allowed.

“ICE knowing this or DHS knowing this tries to ensnare as many people as possible and get them wound up in an immigration system where they know that the cards are going to be stacked against the immigrant,” Angelo Guisado, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Guardian. 

Since January, ICE has arrested 250 students on administrative charges, according to Detroit Free Press, however, about 80 percent have agreed to voluntary departure. Half of the remaining students have received final orders of removal, while the rest are contesting their removals. 

“This is not the first fake university that DHS created and I don’t think it will be the last,” Guisado said. 

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

In its continuing campaign against immigrants and refugees, the Trump administration has increased the costs of immigration proceedings – in some instances by more than 80%. These new fees could make the cost of seeking asylum protection in the U.S. or becoming a citizen out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes.

The Trump administration announced major changes to the fees charged for immigration proceedings.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would dramatically increase the fees for U.S. immigration services on everything from refugee asylum requests to naturalization services. The new fee structure, released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is expected to take effect on October 2.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes. It will also have an outsized impact on business that hire foreign workers.

The agency, which has closed offices and suspended most services during the pandemic, has said it faces a significant revenue shortfall that could trigger furloughs. Earlier this year, the agency requested $1.2 billion in emergency funds from Congress.

The U.S. will now be one of just a few countries that actually charge refugees to file asylum requests.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

With the new fee charged to refugees and asylum seekers, the U.S. will become one of just four countries that actually charge for this application. The new fee for asylum is a blatant attack on the most vulnerable among us and is another way for the administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries.

The $50 application fee for asylum applications now puts the U.S. in the same ranks as Iran, Fiji, and Australia. The new rule would also raise the cost for an asylum applicant to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from the current zero to $490, one of many policy changes to discourage potential asylum applicants. DHS commented, “DHS does not believe that the EAD fee is unduly burdensome for asylum seekers.”

However, one asylum officer who spoke with BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the fee was discouraging.

“The larger problem is that humanitarian applications by their nature should be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who are fleeing — and not helping if they don’t pay up — is disgusting.”

Another asylum officer said it will cost the agency more to collect the fee than $50, “which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application.”

Other fees – from green card replacements to citizenship applications – will also be going up.

The new fee changes impact several categories of services offered by USCIS that will impact our community. Two of the most common types of visas issued by the agency (L and H-1B visas) will increase by 75% and 21% respectively.

The L visa – which is used for short term work in the U.S. – will increase from $460 to $805. The fee for an H-1B petition (which is used by employers to hire highly-skilled workers) will rise from $460 to $555.

For season workers in the U.S., of which there are hundreds of thousands, their fees will also increase by almost 50%. The current fee for these visas is $460 but the H-2A (season agricultural) will rise to $850 and the H-2B (seasonal non-agricultural) will rise to $715.

USCIS would increase the cost of the application (N-400) to become a U.S. citizen by more than 80%, rising from $640 to $1,160 (for online filings, although a separate $85 biometrics fee would be eliminated). 

The new increased fees come as the agency faces a financial crisis that many say are of its own making.

Many are concerned about the timing of these fee increases because USCIS is in the midst of historic mismanagement, that has face the agency from a substantial surplus to a deficit so severe USCIS has requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, held a July 29, 2020, oversight hearing that helped explain how the Trump administration caused the financial problems at USCIS through its policy choices on immigration.

“Under the Trump Administration, USCIS has issued a flurry of policies that make its case adjudications more complicated, which reduces the agency’s efficiency and requires more staff to complete fewer cases,” testified Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “There are dozens if not hundreds of such policies.” 

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A California ‘Karen’ Harasses Landscape Worker As She Demands To See His Papers

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A California ‘Karen’ Harasses Landscape Worker As She Demands To See His Papers

Juan Carlos Andrade Mendez / YouTube

Yet another white woman has been outed as a ‘Karen’ thanks to a now viral video showing off her ignorant and racist behavior. The woman, who hasn’t yet been identified, decided it was OK to harass a landscape worker who was tending to her lawn at her California apartment complex.

‘Karen’ knew she was being recorded, but that didn’t stop her one bit from acting like a rogue ICE agent, demanding to see this man’s papers and questioning him on his citizenship. The video has since been seen more than a million times and officials are investigating the incident.

Another ‘Karen’ harassed a man doing his job and demanded to see his ‘papers.’

Landscape worker Juan Carlos Andrade Mendez was working at an apartment complex in Rancho Mirage, California when the woman seen in the video approached him. The unidentified woman first blows a kiss towards Mendez as he worked before approaching him and beginning her racist interrogation.

In the video you can see the woman with no mask and no respect for social distancing as she stands in front of him and his equipment, demanding to see his citizenship status.

“Like any other complex, I was just doing the work for all of them, mowing the lawn. I passed by her apartment and when I turned around to do the second round that’s when I saw her standing,” Mendez told NBC Palm Springs. “When she was harassing me, I started to feel mad because I was just doing my work,” said Mendez.

The smiling woman then circles Mendez before blocking his way, prompting the man to ask her to step aside as he shuts off his mower. “Can you move?” Mendez said. “I’m doing my work. Can you move?”

The woman then walked away briefly before returning and continuing to ask where the man was from. “No, you’re not Mexican,” she told Mendez after he made a playful reference to Mexico. “What am I?” Mendez replies. “I don’t know, you tell me,” said the woman, who later surmises he may Filipino or Vietnamese, according to the clip.

The woman stares at Andrade before the video ends with her saying, “Show me your papers, mariposa.” Mariposa is Spanish for “butterfly” and can also be used as a slang term for homosexual.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that the woman has harassed Andrade.

According to Mendez, this woman has caused issues for him in the past. About three months ago, according to Mendez, the same woman told him to “go back to his country.”

In an interview with NBC Palm Springs, Mendez said: “Based on what I have seen from her, I think she thinks she didn’t do anything wrong. She believes she’s in the right, so I don’t think she’ll ever apologize.”

Immigration lawyers who have seen the video said some people think they’re acting as makeshift police, but their actions are simply racist.

“Unless you are law enforcement, but aside from that, they are using that conversation as just another way to intimidate and create objects out of human beings who appear to be different from them,” Megan Beaman Jacinto, an immigration lawyer from Coachella Valley, told NBC Palm Springs.

The now viral video has sparked an investigation that had been “pretty much” completed as of Sunday, the Desert Sun reports.

“It wasn’t very difficult,” city attorney Steve Quintanilla told the newspaper.

The investigation centered on city housing policy and whether any steps needed to be taken to prevent similar encounters from occurring, but officials decided it was an isolated incident. Still, property managers at the development are conducting a separate investigation that could lead to the woman’s eviction.

“I can say action will be taken,” Quintanilla told the newspaper, declining to elaborate.

Quintanilla also refused to identify the woman. City officials have said, however, she was a resident of the complex for people 55 and over.

“This matter will not be ignored, nor tolerated,” Mayor Dana Hobart said in a statement. “It is appalling to learn of the hateful misconduct of one of Rancho Mirage’s senior living residents. Racist conduct if any sort is strictly prohibited and not taken lightly in our public housing.”

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