Many Farmington U. students detained by ICE thought they were attending a real university: Indian Ambassador Shringla

Harsh Vardhan Shringla
Harsh Vardhan Shringla; photo credit: Ministry of External Affairs, India

Shringla pointed out that the Indian law doesn’t intentionally lure people into a situation where they make mistakes.

Indian Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Saturday that many of the 129 Indian students detained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last month for enrolling in a fake university may have got trapped into the scam as they were clueless or ignorant about the legality of the Michigan school.

Last month, ICE arrested 130 students of the Farmington University, a fake school set up in 2015 in the Detroit area by ICE itself as part of a sting operation. All but one student in detention were Indian nationals.

“We were, of course, very concerned and distressed to see that so many Indian students were detained and arrested on account of the scam involving Farmington University,” said Shringla, speaking at an Indian Republic Day celebration event, hosted by the National Council of Asian Indian Association (NCAIA) in Greenbelt, MD.

“And for many of [the students], we understand … were quite unaware of the rules and the regulations,” he said. “Many of them thought they were going in for a real university, [many] were going [to] that university, asking about classes and enquiring why classes were not being held.”

The ambassador said a sting operation like the one ICE conducted — after setting up a fake university to lure students to seek admission — would not have happened in India. “[There] is a difference between Indian law and American law,” he said. “In Indian law, we don’t have this concept of entrapment. We only investigate when there is a sense of guilt, when there is a sense of someone has committed an act that is a criminal act or misdemeanor. That act is investigated and then you come out with evidence. But you don’t intentionally lure people into a situation where they make mistakes and commit criminal acts or acts that can be in contradiction with the law of the land you live in.”

Shringla, who presented credentials to President Donald Trump on January 11, said that the fact that intentional luring is part of the US law enforcement system is not something “many of our citizens and students particularly are aware of.”

The envoy told the audience of more than 250, comprising members of the Indian American community, that the Indian embassy in Washington, DC, and four missions across the United States have reached out to the detained students and secured consular access.

“[As] soon as we heard about this situation, we… contacted and engaged with the concerned US authorities which include Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, and we have also tried to engage with the immigration authorities to give us consular access,” Shringla said.

“[We] have gone and met majority of people who are currently under detention,” he said. “And this is not an easy situation considering that they are spread all over the country, in places like Phoenix, Miami, Seattle, literally in different parts of the country. We had teams of people who had to go and meet these people there.”

The Indian officials have offered the students “the fullest support in terms of legal advice or in terms of any other comfort that they would need,” the ambassador said.

“We have set up a 24/7 hotline that enables us to interface with the students, with their relatives, family members and anyone else who is concerned,” he said. “We have already [received] about a 100 calls in that direction and we have the help of the community associations and the legal teams that are being set up to try and provide legal advice and guidance to these students who are currently under incarceration.”

Meanwhile While the Indian government has asked the United States not to deport the students. “We have urged the U.S. 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,” read a statement issued by the country’s Ministry of External Affairs on Saturday.

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