Fox News reported on January 28 that every year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials close hundreds of sham "schools" serving as fronts for illegal immigration operations. And when they do, thousands of foreign nationals, who paid "tuition" in exchange for student visas, are left in a helpless situation, and founders of these alleged "schools" are put behind bars.
The latest is Tri-Valley University (TVU) in Pleasanton, California, near San Francisco — raided by ICE agents and shut down last week. The raid included a sting operation on school founder, Susan Su. Federal prosecutors say TVU wasn't a school at all, but a scheme to defraud the government — and it could be the biggest of its kind.
At TVU, agents were hard-pressed to find students at all — or faculty. Opened in 2008, TVU listed on its website classes supposedly taught by highly educated professionals in medicine, engineering, and law. But of all the named faculty members contacted by Fox News, none had ever taught a class at TVU or even seen the school, nor were they aware their names were listed on TVU's website.
Although TVU founder Su denies any wrongdoing, claiming the school is legitimate, the evidence against her is mounting. According to court filings, the school listed a single Sunnyvale address for almost all the students. Economic Times for January 26 reported that the university is said to have 1,555 students — 95 percent of whom are Indian nationals. Though they were registered for courses and lived in California on paper, they were actually working illegally in other parts of the country.
For these TVU "students" left in the lurch, the ordeal isn’t over. In order to maintain an active immigration status, they must show they are making progress toward completing coursework. But with the shutdown, students here on F-1 visas will lose their status within a specified time. Because of the school’s closing, they now face the prospect of deportation
. Prospective students still in India who were planning to enroll in TVU have cancelled U.S. travel plans.
Federal authorities are interrogating many of those who had paid for student visas and work permits, creating panic among the Indian student community. Many plan to leave the country as soon as the interrogations are complete. Economic Times noted that the Maryland-based Murthy law firm, whose immigration attorneys are popular among Indian nationals, posted the following on its website regarding the TVU raid: ”We have received verification that ICE has detained some of the students and placed them in removal proceedings."
The charges leveled against TVU include being part of an effort to defraud, to misuse visa permits, and to launder money.
During the raid, agents seized computers and evidence about four other properties — including the main office building, a condominium, and a home owned by Su — which are alleged to have been purchased with "tuition" money. Su claimed, "...We do not do cheating…we never forced anybody to sign up with us"; however, during the sting, she was caught giving F-1 student visas to undercover agents, who had told her they wanted to come to the U.S. with no intention of attending school.
Fox News noted that each of the students paid $5,400 per semester to Susan Su.