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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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Things That Matter

Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

Things That Matter

This Virtual Posada Aims To Help The LGBTQ Migrant Community And They Need Your Help

Juan Zanella Gonzalez / Getty Images

For many Latinos, the word posada, evokes holiday celebrations surrounded by family and friends, singing, enjoying a warm meal (of tamales and ponche, of course), and spreading holiday cheer all around. Obviously, this year’s posadas will look very different but it’s more important than ever that we continue with traditions.

Posadas are steeped in the history of Mary and Joseph’s quest for safe refuge where the Virgin Mary could safely give birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. Given our current government’s cruel and anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, the story of Mary & Joseph rings true with many people hoping to find a safer, better home in the United States. This is especially true for LGBTQ migrants who face unique challenges in both their journeys to the U.S. and their asylum experience.

Enter the LGBTQ Center Orange County. The center has proudly stood up to help the community in powerful and life-changing ways and their annual Queer Posada is one of the most important.

The LGBTQ community faces unique challenges in their quest for asylum and settlement in the U.S.

Credit: Lino de Jesús Herrera / Getty Images

LGBTQ detainees across the country have shared harrowing experiences of being mocked or tortured for their gender identity or sexual orientation. Many others have been sexually assaulted while in ICE custody or while waiting for their asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border. And transgendered and HIV-positive detainees have both been denied medically necessary healthcare that has posed a risk to their lives.

Migrant advocacy groups and several lawmakers have demanded that ICE release all LGBTQ detainees and anyone with HIV in the agency’s custody, because the government has repeatedly failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to them.

And Southern California is home to the nation’s largest undocumented community, which means organizations like the LGBTQ Center Orange County have their work cut out for them. However, the center has proudly stood up to help in powerful and life-changing ways.

Meet JB, who was detained at Adelanto Detention Center and relied on the help of the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

JB, who identifies as a transgender man, was a detainee at Adelanto Detention Center. While in custody he was denied access to his hormone therapies which had negative effects on both his physical and mental health.

JB credits the LGBTQ Center Orange County with saving his life. The Center was a consistent advocate for JB and helped provide much-needed cash and weekly visits.

You can hear more stories from LGBTQ migrants who have been helped by the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s countless programs by following our Snapchat account, which will feature more important voices.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County offers so many important programs that help migrants out in extraordinary ways.

So often, LGBTQ migrants make the journey to the U.S. alone and, therefore, don’t have the family support (neither financial or emotional) that’s so important. But that’s where the LGBTQ Center Orange County comes in to help fill that void.

Volunteers and employees of The Center do so much for the community: from attending numerous events throughout the year to educate and provide much-needed resources or sending $20 to a detainee so they can have a filling meal, to helping advocate for the end of the partnership between Santa Ana Police and the Orange County Sheriff with ICE, to providing weekly citizenship classes to those who need them.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County has also been a leader in assisting eligible residents with their DACA applications, which is a cause close to the hearts of Luis Gomez and Jonatan Gutierrez – both DACA recipients who work with the LGBTQ Center Orange County.

And now it’s our turn to give back at the LGBTQ Center Orange County’s posada.

Obviously, this year’s posada tradition looks very different but the LGBTQ Center Orange County is working to keep the tradition alive by taking it online and making it free for all to attend. However, it is a critical fundraising event that enables the center to do all that it does for the LGBTQ migrant community across Southern California. 

And the work the center does is so important because it shouldn’t just be on detainees to speak out. All of us as part of the LGBTQ and migrant communities should support those in detention and speak out about the injustices they’re suffering in detention.

Donations from the Queer Posada will go toward the center’s LGBTQ Immigrant Fund. The unrestricted funds meet multiple needs from bonds, commissary funds, airline tickets to immigration filing fees. The center has also distributed checks to LGBTQ community members who have been severely impacted by COVID-19. You can get more information and RSVP for this free, virtual event here.

Plus it’s going to be a fun and free event that you won’t want to miss.

Not only will you be able to virtually hang out with members of the community and leaders from the LGBTQ Center OC but there will also be a spirited round of lotería, a raffle, and a live performance by the LGBTQ Mariachi Arcoíris de Los Angeles.

During the Queer Posada, their will also be an exclusive screening of the nearly 15-minute Before and After Detention documentary, followed by a Q&A with the director Armando Ibañez. The film follows three trans women who were released from detention centers. Angela, Fernanda and Gladys live in Los Angeles, while their asylum status is pending. In the documentary, they talk about their lives in their home countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico and being detained in the U.S.

The LGBTQ Center Orange County’s Queer Posada is taking place this Saturday, December 12 at 6 p.m. on Zoom, and is an important event for both the LGBTQ and migrant communities, one that you do not want to miss!

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