Twenty-one people were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly conspiring with 1,000 foreign nationals to maintain fake student and work visas. The suspects, mostly American citizens of Chinese and Indian backgrounds, were caught when they attempted to obtain visas for individuals by having them enroll in a university – specifically the University of Northern New Jersey, a school run by undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security, The Record reported.
The defendants were not attempting to better themselves at the University of Northern New Jersey, but rather trying to take advantage of “sham visa mills,” as US Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman put it on Tuesday.
None of the 1,000 students involved in the operation have been charged with anything, according to The Record. However, they have been placed under administrative arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for their alleged complicity in the scheme, WTVD reported.
Now that the “students’” visas are invalid, they will likely be deported to their countries of origin. Many of them are from China and India, but previously entered the country legally to attend a – hopefully real – university.
By posing as corrupt school officials, the brainchild of the undercover Homeland Security agents soon caught the attention of many visa brokers.
“Once word got out, brokers descended on the school, clamoring to enroll their foreign student clients,” Fishman said in describing the University of Northern New Jersey’s reception.
The brokers created false student transcripts and diplomas in order to trick immigration officials, CNN Money reported.
The phony work papers managed to get some people into very good positions. Companies such as Facebook, Google, and even the US military were found to have hired employees who had used fake paperwork for visas.
The brokers’ arrest is the result of a three-year investigation. A year and a half ago, ABC News found that the Department of Homeland Security had lost track of over 6,000 foreign nationals that had entered the US on student visas.
Brokers charged fees starting at approximately $1,000 to $1,500, authorities told The Record. However, the “students” were paying out much more than that.
“Other defendants charged their clients thousands of dollars and then the defendants made sham tuition payments directly to the university,” Fishman, the US attorney for the district of New Jersey, told the Record.
Brokers from New Jersey, New York, and Washington were all arrested, and dozens of schools came under suspicion of participating in the “pay to stay” scheme, as Fishman called it.
Over 680,000 US green cards went to immigrants from Muslim nations since 2009
The data, which comes from the DHS’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, shows the top countries for green card recipients were Pakistan, Iraq, and Bangladesh. Over five years, 83,000 cards were issued to citizens of Pakistan and Iraq, and 75,000 to people from Bangladesh.
The documents were submitted to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest in November of 2015 and released to the press by the subcommittee’s chairman, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).
“Among those receiving green cards are individuals admitted to the United States as refugees, who must apply for adjustment to Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status within one year of admission,” said Sessions in a press release. “Refugees have instant access to federal welfare entitlements, along with local benefits and education services; these costs are not offset.”
Sessions endorsed his party’s presidential front-runner Donald Trump in February, and has joined the candidate’s team of foreign policy advisors since then.
Of those, 44 percent were immediate relatives of US citizens, 21 percent had taken advantage of a family-sponsored preference, and 16 percent received their green card through an employment-based preference. Another 12 percent were adjusted from refugee or asylee status, and 5 percent were diversity-lottery winners.