Until very recently, the website for the “University of Farmington” looked fairly similar to the website for any other ordinary American college or university. It was filled with leafy pictures, background information, and general details on enrollment procedures and course programs.
If you navigate to the website today, you will find a message stating that the University of Farmington is “closed” and that impacted students should “contact their local Homeland Security Investigations office”. What happened? As it turns out, this was a wholly fake university that was set up by immigration enforcement agencies in order to entrap students.
According to reporting from The Washington Post, hundreds of prospective students enrolled in this university not realizing that it was part of a sting operation from ICE/DHS. Now some people who were seeking a student visa may be arrested and eventually deported from the United States.
Eight Recruiters Have Already Been Arrested, Hundreds of Students Face Potential Deportation
The reporting indicates that federal immigration agencies began setting up this sting operation back in 2015. They went so far as to build an entire fraudulent website, with fake background information, and extensive photographs of the “campus”. Recruiters were targeted and eight of them have already been arrested by federal law enforcement officers. The Washington Post report indicates that federal law enforcement officers are charging these recruiters with intentionally helping students violate immigration regulations. In total, as many as 600 students are believed to have enrolled in the fake university.
Students May Face Deportation
Alarmingly, the students who were taken advantage of in this scam may face deportation from the United States. Based on public information, it is unclear how many of the students are currently in the country and how many enrolled in the program from a foreign country. Though, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does state in its charges that the eight recruiters were attempting to allow students to “remain and re-enter” the U.S. in violation of immigration law.
Foreign students applying to this fake school were informed that they would be eligible to obtain an F-1 visa. Sadly, it appears that many of them are at risk of being collateral damage in the broader ICE sting operation. In its legal complaint, ICE claims that students who enrolled in the program engaged in a “pay-to-play” scheme. However, there was no reliable evidence provided that demonstrated that all of the students actually knew the university was fraudulent. Whether or not student applicants will face deportation depends on future legal proceedings.
We Handle Immigration Law Matters in Los Angeles
At the Law Office of Joshua L. Goldstein, PC, our legal team fights for the rights and interests of immigrants. To request a strictly confidential review of your immigration case, please contact our Los Angeles law office today at (213) 262-2000 or reach out to us through our website. We serve communities throughout Southern California, including Compton, Inglewood, Pasadena, and East Los Angeles.