"Our concern over the dignity and well-being of the detained students and the need for immediate consular access for Indian officials to the detainees was reiterated", the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Saturday.
India has made a diplomatic protest to the United States after 129 Indian students were arrested for enrolling in a fake university. "We have urged the USA 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 ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has administratively arrested 130 foreign nationals enrolled at the University of Farmington for civil immigration violations".
"Rather, their intent was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization under the CPT (a course-related curricular training programme that allows off-campus work authorization for foreign students)".
Speaking to WION, Surendra Adhana, Deputy Consul General, Indian Consulate Houston said, "Each consulate in the US is getting consular access to students detained in their jurisdiction". The students had immigrated legally to the United States on student visas and had transferred to the University of Farmington so they could work, said attorneys.
A website for the University of Farmington showed pictures of students in classes and libraries, or relaxing around a grassy campus.
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The ministry has also established a 24/7 helpline in the Indian Embassy in Washington for assistance.
An official with ICE said the students involved in this case had come to the US legally to study at universities, but then transferred to the University of Farmington after they arrived in order to work, the Detroit Free Press said. Of the 130, 129 were Indian nationals.
The American Telugu Association urged "students to be wary of fake agents who promise illegal ways to stay in US through admissions in unaccredited colleges and universities". It is unclear how many students are facing deportation, but it's being called one of the largest sweeps in recent years. "Eight student recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the USA illegally, according to the indictments". "They promised that they were working closely with the concerned authorities and will resolve the issue in a fast and amicable manner", said TANA secretary Anjaiah Chowdary Lavu.
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has said that she will give "highest priority" to this issue.
Sources said the case has an uncanny link to the 2013 diplomatic row between India and the U.S. when Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade was arrested over charges of visa fraud and perjury leading to her detention. "Majority students who sought admission in University of Farmington belong to middle class families".
The website of the fake university has been closed by government officials. He also said, each of their five Consulates in USA has identified a nodal officer who could be contacted for any issue in the situation. They were admitted to the U.S.as nonimmigrant students using an F-1 visa based on the fact that they were going to attend an SEVP-certified school.