Homeland Security uses fake university to lure and entrap undocumented students
The Department of Homeland security utilized a fake university to lure in students who were overstaying their visa deadlines.
University of Farmington has no curriculum or faculty, and it was set up by the government to identify people assisting undocumented people to overstay illegally. Its website describes the university as “a nationally accredited business and STEM institution located in Metro Detroit.” Its homepage picture is identical to one found on the stock images site Shuttershock. The government scheme does not clarify for international students who enrolled legitimately that the university was fake.
Detroit News reports the scheme entrapped eight students who were charged for illegally conspiring to assist at least 600 people to overstay their visas. They are 35 year old Phanideep Karnati, 26 year old Prem Kumar Rampeesa, 29 year old Bharath Kakireddy, 26 year old Aswanth Nune, 31 year old Suresh Reddy Kandala, 28 year old Santosh Reddy Sama, 28 year old Avinash Thakkallapally, and 29 year old Naveen Prathipati.
“These suspects aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the United States illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not,” said Steve Francis, special agent in charge of the Detroit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations office.
Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor, justified the government’s deceptive actions, saying, “It’s creative and it’s not entrapment. The government can put out the bait, but it’s up to the defendants to fall for it.”
This is…wow. The feds created a fake university in Detroit to ensnare undocumented students. https://t.co/IfduttmbOA
— Deadlift Schrempf. (@GeeDee215) January 30, 2019
This is not the first time the U.S. has used a fake university to track visa fraud. In 2016, federal agents operated the fake University of Northern New Jersey which led to charges against more than 20 people.
In 2016, Chinese student Winona Sun, who was caught up in the sting, told the New York Times, “If one person called me back and told me it was fake, I would not have gone to the University of Northern New Jersey. What else can I do? I don’t know the American system.”
Z., a Chinese migrant, asked the fake university, “How risky will it be for obtaining full-time C.P.T. without attending any classes?”
The university responded, “If you are not comfortable with what we have offered, I ask you to try another university in the New Jersey area.”
Many worry government schemes like these will not only target undocumented people for deportation, but purposely set up immigrants to be arrested on legal grounds they are unaware of by baiting them to commit crimes so they can be charged and arrested later.