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Some Indian Students Caught in Middle of US Immigration Dispute

  • Ira Mellman

The US Government last month shut down a California College charged with committing visa
fraud. Many of the students who were attending the college on F-1 student visas were from India, and many of them have been caught in the middle of what has turned into an international diplomatic incident.

As many as 95 percent of the students who had been attending Tri Valley University in Pleasanton, California had come from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Jayaram Komati is the president of the Telugu Association of North America, an organization that represents people from Andhra Pradesh in the United States. "Some 1,550 students were studying in that University. The University's management, with no fault of the students, got shut down. Once the University got shut down, whoever had come to the University on an F-1 status (student visa), all their visas [were] up in the air. That's what most of the students were facing," he said.

Reports say the government has filed court documents accusing the University and its founder, Susan Su, of helping foreign nationals illegally acquire student immigration status.

Komati says although school officials do face legal charges, many of the students were the target of U.S. immigration agents.

"The University got shut down on January 18th. On the morning of the 19th, immigration authorities raided the student's apartments. They got hold of some 19 students. They interrogated them and put a monitoring device on their legs, and they [left] them," he said.

For those students with no visas, wearing tracking devices and without the forms necessary, the government of India contacted the U.S. State department. The incident escalated to the top tier of international communication this week when the Indian Foreign Secretary met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It was addressed by U.S. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley Wednesday.

"We have reiterated over the course of the last several days, our committment to work very closely with the Indian government. We understand the concerns the government has. We want to resolve these cases . And those who are ensnared in somebody else's fraud; we understand that they've been put in a kind of a limbo status as a result of this. We regret that very much. That said, we have strong suspicions that visa fraud has occured. It is a matter of great concern to us as a country. It is a matter of great concern to India as a country. We will seek to resolve this as quickly as possible. We pledge to keep Indian authorities fully infomed. But we have to go through this investigation," he said.

The Telugu Association's Jayaram Komati says following the high level meetings as well as with the intervention of attorneys hired for some of the students, the situation has changed for some of the students.

"So far as I know, six of the students have hadtheir monitors removed and have been given back their passports and they're being given an opportunity to look into other universities to transfer to [to] continue their education," he said.

And in New Delhi, the US Ambassador Timothy Roemer said the United States supports and encourages Indian students coming to the United States to learn.

"The United States of America strongly supports the participation of Indian students in American schools. In fact, we are very, very proud of this participation in our academic life and to our economy. Secondly, we are working to resolve this issue in a fair and just manner. This is very important. As a parent of four children, I can imagine what parents go through when they're worried about their children and worrie about their studnet's peformance and opportunities, we're working hard on this and resolving it," he said.

Ambassador Roemer added that the U.S. has free services available for Indian students to find out the honesty and integrity of U.S. colleges.