Still collecting facts on students stopped from flying to California: Verma.
By Dileep Thekkethil
Four days after a San Francisco-bound Air India airline refused to accept 19 Indian students who had secured admission in two California universities that are allegedly under the scrutiny of the US government, the US embassy in Delhi said they are still collecting facts.
According to the US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, the embassy has come to know about the difficulty faced by a few students who were advised by the Air India authorities to cancel their trip to the US due to the fear of deportation. Due to the uncertainty of the situation, India has directed students who got admission in those two US universities to postpone their travel plans until the issue got resolved.
“The embassy is aware of reports that some students bound for two California schools were denied entry by Customs and Border Protection. We regret the impact this may have had on certain students and their families,â€ Verma said.
“We are following this situation closely and have been in regular communication with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the government of India. Facts are still being collected,” Verma said in a statement.
The ambassador also said that the US will continue to accept students from India as study programs and exchange programs have been pivotal in shaping up the bilateral relationship of the two countries for decades.
The external affairs ministry of India had on Wednesday issued a recommendation to students traveling to the US saying that there have been several instances in the past few months where Indian students were denied entry by the US immigration authorities despite having valid visa documents to study in two educational institutions – Silicon Valley University at San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic University, Fremont.
It said, “Government of India has taken up this matter with the US government. We have asked the US authorities to explain the reasons for denial of entry on a large scale to Indian students holding valid visas. The response of the US government is awaited.
“Till such time the matter is satisfactorily resolved, the students seeking admission in aforementioned two institutions are advised to defer their travel to the United States,” the advisory read.
Silicon Valley University issued an advisory note to all new and returning students asking them to bring original documents. SVU said “there were rumors reported by the media in India stating that SVU is being targeted by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).”
The university blamed the students for their deportation back to India saying, “Due to the fact that there were some new SVU students being removed or deported back to India because they were not able to answer the questions adequately to the satisfaction of the inspectors at the port of entry.”
Northwestern Polytechnic University president Peter Hsieh assured students, families, and friends that his team is doing their best to clear NPU’s name and fight for the rights of the students.
Air India authorities had earlier on Monday said: â€œIn the past, we have witnessed that students who secured admission in those institutions have been deported to India as soon as they land there. To avoid embarrassment to them and save their money, we prevented them from boarding the flight.
â€œSo far, 14 students who travelled on Air India flights to San Francisco have been deported. Students travel on a one-way ticket to the US and, in the event of deportation, incur huge expenditure to buy a ticket back to India on first available service. Further, seats are often not available on any airlines to travel back,â€ said the statement released by Air India.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said: â€œWe have seen reports regarding deportation of Indian students from San Francisco. As per information available with us, the deportations have taken place due to denial of entry to these students by US immigration authorities. Air India has acted as per the advice of US authorities.â€
He also added that the ministry has taken up the issue with the US government and is closely monitoring it and expressed hope that the issue will soon be resolved.
All 19 students who were denied boarding passes were carrying F-1 student visa issued by US consulate in Hyderabad along with the requisite I-20 forms issued by the universities, certifying their admission.