Indian Ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on Sunday expressed confidence that the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will have access to all students detained by the US authorities as part of "pay-and-stay" scam by Monday.
About 130 foreign students, majority Indians, were rounded up after enrolling at the University of Farmington, in what prosecutors claim was a case of "pay-to-stay" immigration fraud.
"We have urged the United States side to share full details and regular updates of students with the government, to release them from detention at the earliest and not to resort to deportation against their will", the statement said.
The fake university was set up in 2015 to try to catch foreign nationals who had initially travelled to the U.S. on student visas and wanted to stay in the country, United States media reported.
Speaking to WION, Surendra Adhana, Deputy Consul General, Indian Consulate Houston said, "Each consulate in the U.S. is getting consular access to students detained in their jurisdiction".
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "We are aware about this incident".
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The American Telugu Association, in a statement on its Facebook page, said the affected students and their friends alerted them about the arrests.
The fake university was opened by Homeland Security investigations to trap those involved in illegal student visa racket. "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.
The ministry has also established a 24/7 helpline in the Indian Embassy in Washington for assistance. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made the arrests on Wednesday. "Vast majority" of those arrested and detained are Indian nationals, an ICE official told PTI.
The association, according to Detroit Free Press, confirmed that about 100 students had been arrested and others were facing arrest warrants. Over the past two years, the varsity enrolled about 600 students, mostly Indians. "Eight student recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the US illegally, according to the indictments". 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. Since the early hours of Jan 30, 2019, the ATA legal team and local ATA teams have reached out to the Indian Students Associations of various universities.
The indictments unsealed Thursday said the students knew the university's programme was not approved by the government. "Welfare of those detained is the highest priority for us", he said.
The federal prosecutor in Detroit, Matthew Schneider, said in a statement: "We are all aware that worldwide students can be a valuable asset to our country, but as this case shows, the well-intended global student visa program can also be exploited and abused".