Immigration Officials: Tri-Valley U. and Students Involved in Visa Scam

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"You call the office and they always told us you don't have to come here. The professors are live [on the internet] and you can interact with them," the 24-year-old man said.

He said that he took three online classes: computer architecture, data mining and software quality assurance from his New Jersey home.

He found out the university was closed by reading it online.

"When I was calling them for the next semester, they were not taking the calls," he said.

A female student who wished to remain anonymous said that she had received a masters degree from a university in Virginia and was legally working in the United States when she decided to attend Tri-Valley.

She paid her fees to start classes in January, but the university was shut down before she could take classes.

She's scared to tell her family in India what's happening.

"We're left in limbo. We paid a lot of fees, we wasted a lot of time and money, a lot of us are feeling nervous and it's totally depressing students," another student said.

Attorneys representing former Tri-Valley students living in California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia claim that Su misled students into thinking that taking online classes complied with immigration laws and that they were taking full course loads.

Su was acting as the university's "designated school official," the liaison to the Department of Homeland Security who has access to a database of foreign, non-immigrant, individuals. As the designated school official, international students rely on the administrator to make sure their course loads are in compliance with the terms of their visa.

The civil forfeiture complaint claims that Su lied in her application to receive approval to accept foreign students, then allowed many of the foreign students to attend all of their classes through online courses and lied about where the students were residing. Hundreds of students were listed as residing at the same address when in reality, many of the students did not live in California, according to court documents.

Foreign Students Given Ankle Monitors by ICE

At least 6 students remain with ankle monitors, said attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla, who jointly represents 14 Tri-Valley students with attorney Manpreet Gahra.

Reports of Indian students wearing ankle monitors has made big news in India and even led to discussions between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao.

"Those who are involved in this investigation have been issued ankle monitors. This is widespread across the United States and standard procedure for a variety of investigations," State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said at a press conference Feb. 16.

Last year, 5,862 ankle monitors were used as part of ICE's alternative to detention programs, ICE Public Affairs Officer Brigham said. Instead of detaining foreign nationals under investigation, immigration officials might opt to use electronic monitoring instead.

"I personally feel that this was a bit excessive because they weren't necessarily shown to be a flight risk and at least five students [of the 18 radiotagged] appear very much to be victims of fraud," Peddibhotla said.

Rajiv Khanna, a Virginia based immigration attorney, has been holding daily conference calls for Tri-Valley students offering guidance. He represents five students and has referred hundreds to other attorneys, he said.

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