India issues demarche to United States over detained students

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The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Saturday that it has been in contact with the U.S. officials and has expressed concern for the arrested students.

The conspiracy came to light after the Department of Homeland Security set up a fake university in Farmington Hills to target foreign students who wanted to stay in the US without proper authorization, according to federal indictments unsealed in Detroit on Wednesday. "We have urged the U.S. side to share full details and regular updates of the students with the government, to release them from detention at the earliest and not to resort to deportation against their will", the ministry added.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, till Thursday, had arrested 130 students from the fake Farmington University in Greater Detroit area.

They had helped foreign nationals illegally remain in the United States by enrolling them into a metro Detroit private university, which was actually being operated by US agents themselves.

The Indian government has asked the US Department of Homeland Security for a list of all the detained Indian students and a formal request has been placed for providing consular access to them.

In a surprising case of Indian students getting arrested in US under the alleged 'immigration scam, ' the External Affairs Ministry under Sushma Swaraj has said that 'it's their top priority to get the students back to India under any circumstances'.

In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "We are aware about this incident".

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Federal investigators say the students who took admission in the university knew that the university programme was illegal. "The relationship between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not in high spirits anyway", said a former Indian Ambassador to the United States who refused to be identified.

According to reports in the local media and an indictment filed by federal authorities and unsealed in Detroit on Wednesday, "eight people were arrested and indicted in an immigration fraud case for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit". The Indian embassy in the United States has opened a 24/7 hotline to assist them round the clock.

According to the Detroit News, many of those arrested now face deportation. It held no classes and collected a nominal fee from students and gave them "curricular practical training" after their enrolment, providing temporary authorisation for practical training related to their study or to work.

Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has said that she will give "highest priority" to this issue.

The India mission and consulates have visited several detention centres throughout the USA to extend consular assistance to the detained students, the MEA said.

"Each of our five Consulates in the country has identified a nodal officer who could be contacted for any issue in this situation".

In a precedent to the latest sting, immigration agents set up the fake University of Northern New Jersey in 2016 under the Obama administration.

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