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. 

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

Things That Matter

This Guatemalan Mom Was Separated From Her Son At The Border After Enduring A Gunshot To The Face

@ajplus / Twitter

In an exclusive interview with People Magazine, a 32-year-old Guatemalan woman recounts her experience fleeing her home country in August 2017 after being shot in the face at a demonstration. Not only does the woman—who goes by the false name Daniella—describe the event that catalyzed her desire to leave Guatemala, but she tells of the many months spent traveling north, and the many months spent in a detention center after reaching the border, separated from her young son.

On August 9, 2017, Daniella and her son, Carlos, were leaving their family’s house when they encountered a large protest against a new measure that would require people to pay for water. At first the protest was peaceful—but then bullets started flying through the air. Daniella and Carlos were just passing through, but a bullet had caught Daniella in two parts of her body: the left arm, and right below the eye.

“I threw my arm around Carlos to protect him—he was covered in blood, and I started to panic,” she told People. “Little did I know that the one bleeding was me.”

Because of rampant corruption in that part of Guatemala, Daniella knew that the police wouldn’t come—they were told not to interfere. So vigilant were certain members of the demonstration that Daniella’s father received a threatening call before she even made it to a hospital. The caller told her father that if they filed a report, he would kill the whole family. Later she learned that the man who had shot her lived just three blocks away from her mother. Fortunately, when she made it to the hospital, her husband—who had moved the the U.S. five years earlier to find work, sent money for the expenses.

After more than a week in the hospital, both bullets remain in Daniella’s body to this day.

“The doctor said that if they were taken out, I could be left in a vegetative state, or I could die,” she said. “To this day I still feel pain.”

After this harrowing experience, Daniella decided that it was time to follow in her husband’s footsteps and flee to the U.S. She knew that the journey would be anything but easy, but she could have never guessed how nightmarish a month lay ahead. Traveling by truck and by bus, there were many nights spent on the side of the road. When they finally made it to the Arizona border, they were not dropped off at an immigration center, as she had expected. Instead, she and Carlos were told to climb a tree, then jump from the tree to the border wall. From there, they could reach the other side.

“I told Carlos, ‘Mijo, you have to jump.’ He was so afraid that he wouldn’t move,” she said. “I looked into my son’s eyes, and I said, ‘Son, please trust me. Everything’s going to be all right.’

After they had both made it safely to the other side, they took just a few steps before the Border Patrol arrived. They were taken into custody and dropped off at “La Hielera”—The Icebox. There, Daniella was forced to sign papers she didn’t understand, and the officer who was present told her that the children would be taken to a shelter, then given up for adoption. Naturally, all the mothers were desperately frightened by this news.

Before leaving for court that same day, Daniella said goodbye to Carlos, unsure if they would ever see each other again. She told People Magazine that she held her son and said: “You’re a champion, Papa, and you’re always going to be in my heart.”

The mothers were not immediately told the whereabouts of their children. But five months after being moved to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Daniella learned that Carlos was in a New Jersey foster home.

A few months later, Daniella had her official court hearing. Her bail was posted at $30,000, and after filing an appeal to extend the bail deadline, Daniella was released from custody. She had been detained for 11 months.

The organization Immigrant Families Together had gathered the money for Daniella’s bail, and they helped her get back on her feet by providing her with food and clean clothes. They also took her to the airport to fly to Virginia, where Carlos had relocated to live with his uncle, her brother.

Daniella’s story isn’t unique—roughly 30,000 people are detained in the U.S. on a given day, and these numbers have seen major upticks throughout 2019. What makes Daniella’s story remarkable is her reunion with Carlos. Many families who have been separated at the border are not nearly as lucky.

While she and Carlos continue to deal with the psychological trauma of this experience, Daniella is grateful and focused on the future.

“Without the assistance from all the people that helped me, I wouldn’t be free,” said Daniella. “Now my only focus is my family, my son, starting a new life here in California . . . I don’t have to worry about being shot again or putting my son’s life in danger.”

Graphic New Video Of Migrant Teen’s Death Raises Questions About ICE Policies

Things That Matter

Graphic New Video Of Migrant Teen’s Death Raises Questions About ICE Policies

Family of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez

When 16-year-old Guatemalan Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez died six days after arriving at South Texas processing center, Customs and Border Protection released their version of events. Now, an uncovered ProPublica video reveals a different version. 

When Carlos died in May, acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner John Sanders said an agent found Carlos “unresponsive” after checking on him. However, ProPublica acquired a video of Carlos’ last hours that dispute he was provided with adequate healthcare. 

Carlos is the sixth migrant under 18 years old to die in federal custody under the Trump administration, according to the New York Times. Here’s what really happened.

Hours before he died, Carlos had a fever of 103 degrees, according to records.

The day before he died, a nurse instructed authorities to check on the 16-year-old in a couple of hours and said he should be taken to the emergency room if his sickness worsened. They did not follow the orders. Carlos was diagnosed with the flu, fearing he would contaminate other migrants agents moved into a quarantine cell. The next morning another sick boy in the cell found him dead.

The video shows that Carlos was visibly incredibly ill. It shows that the only way you couldn’t have noticed this teenage boy needed urgent care was if you were willfully ignoring him.

“The cellblock video shows Carlos writhing for at least 25 minutes on the floor and a concrete bench. It shows him staggering to the toilet and collapsing on the floor, where he remained in the same position for the next four and a half hours,” according to ProPublica. 

ProPublica referred to a Border Patrol “subject activity log” where it said an agent checked on him three times on the morning of his death but reported nothing out of the ordinary. The article suggests that “agent charged with monitoring him failed to perform adequate checks, if he even checked at all.” 

ProPublica believes the video disputes CBP’s account of Carlos’ death. 

The security video shows that it was Carlos’ cellmate who discovered his body, not any agents doing a welfare check, as CBP alleged in their press release. The video shows no welfare checks taking place at all. However, ProPublica discovered a four-hour gap of missing footage that coincides with the times an agent reported doing the welfare checks. CBP would not comment. A coroner heard secondhand that an agent may have checked by looking through the cell window. 

“On the video, the cellmate can be seen waking up and groggily walking to the toilet, where Carlos was lying in a pool of blood on the floor. He gestures for help at the cell door. Only then do agents enter the cell and discover that Carlos had died during the night,” ProPublica described. 

When ProPublica reporters asked Department of Homeland Security if cell footage of Carlos’ final hours were shown on the live video monitors, they would not comment. 

“While we cannot discuss specific information or details of this investigation, we can tell you that the Department of Homeland Security and this agency are looking into all aspects of this case to ensure all procedures were followed,” CBP spokesperson Matt Leas said.

Medical experts condemn the circumstances of the teenager’s death. 

“Why is a teenaged boy in a jail facility at all if he is sick with a transmissible illness? Why isn’t he at a hospital or at a home or clinic where he can get a warm bed, fluids, supervised attention and medical care? He is not a criminal,” said Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist that reviewed Carlos’ death records

The New York Times notes the tens of millions of dollars have been funneled into migrant healthcare, with medical practitioners near the southwestern border increasing over tenfold. However, an examination by the paper found that most Border Patrol facilities in the area are insufficient in their ability to asses migrant health, despite years of internal warnings on the matter. 

“Flu can progress rapidly, but it’s not like a heart attack. Even when fast, it worsens over a period of hours. There should have been signs that indicated he needed to go to the hospital,” Dr. Joshya Sharfstein, who works at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said.

Former commissioner Sanders has since resigned and expressed remorse over the situation blaming the largely Democratic Congress for being “unresponsive” — not necessarily the Trump administration for the problem, according to ProPublica

“I really think the American government failed these people. The government failed people like Carlos,” he said. “I was part of that system at a very high level, and Carlos’ death will follow me for the rest of my life.”

Carlos’ death was not entirely in vain. The loss of his life prompted new regulations for Border Patrol agents which require they physically enter the cells of sick detainees, conduct regular welfare checks, and take their temperatures.