India on Tuesday said it has gained consular access to 117 of the 129 Indian students detained in the United States on allegations of immigration fraud.
The Ministry of External Affairs said officials of the Indian Embassy and consulates have visited 36 detention sites across the US to gain access to the students. “Consular access to the remaining students, estimated at about a dozen, are continuing, including through the 24/7 helpline set up by the Embassy and outreach to the community,” the ministry said in a statement.
Last week, 130 students were detained in what the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement called a “pay-and-stay” scam. All but one of the students are Indians. The scam involves foreigners who purportedly enrol in fake institutions to falsely maintain their student visa status to allow them to continue to stay in the US. Undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security had set up the University of Farmington, a fake university, to crack down on the scam.
The External Affairs Ministry said it was providing assistance to the students to obtain legal advice and helping them connect to community support services. “Government of India continues to attach high priority to the well-being of the detained students and will remain constantly engaged with the US authorities and other stakeholders, to address the issue,” the ministry said.
The State Department on Monday said the 130 detained students were aware that they were committing a crime to fraudulently remain in the country. Meanwhile, eight people who were arrested for allegedly running this racket pleaded “not guilty” before a federal court in Michigan.
India had issued a demarche to the US Embassy in Delhi on Saturday, raising concern over the detention of Indian students and sought immediate consular access to them.