GPS an­klet and food on dole: Af­ter Farm­ing­ton, she reaps only dis­tress


The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION -

Hy­der­abad: Con­fined within the four walls of her pay­ing guest ac­com­mo­da­tion in cold Sacra­mento (Cal­i­for­nia), Univer­sity of Farm­ing­ton stu­dent Saritha (name changed) can barely wait for March 14. That’s when she is set to ap­pear be­fore a judge and, hope­fully, be freed of the GPS tracker strapped around her an­kle. Un­til then, the 25-year-old will stay put in­doors and sur­vive on lit­tle money and a thin sup­ply of veg­eta­bles and rice pro­vided by a gen­er­ous In­dian fam­ily.

Saritha had set out to achieve her big Amer­i­can dream in 2015, by sign­ing up for a master’s pro­gramme at the North­west­ern Polytech­nic Univer­sity . She then went to the Univer­sity of Farm­ing­ton. Af­ter ini­tial phase of un­cer­tainty, just when she thought she was fi­nally inch­ing closer to it, her pur­suit hit a major road­block on Jan­uary 30 when of­fi­cers from the US Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity (DHS), came knock­ing on her door.

“They woke me up at 6.30am and asked me to ac­com­pany them to their of­fice. I was in­ter­ro­gated till 8.30pm and told to re­port at the In­ten­sive Su­per­vi­sor and Ap­pear­ance Pro­gram of­fice the next day. That’s where they ra­dio­tagged me. I was in­structed not to leave Cal­i­for­nia, pay them a visit ev­ery Thurs­day, not change my postal ad­dress and not go back to In­dia,” she said, speak­ing to TOI over tele­phone.

The anx­i­ety and dis­tress ev­i­dent in her voice came as no sur­prise from the Hy­der­abad-bred girl who joined the sham var­sity on ad­vice of an anna (brother). “When I spoke to DHS of­fi­cials to­day, they said they had a very strong case against me. Ac­cord­ing to them, even if I opt for vol­un­tary de­par­ture now, I will be banned from the US for 10 years,” Saritha said, con­fess­ing that long ban will push her fam­ily into a ter­ri­ble mon­e­tary cri­sis.

But stay­ing back to fight the case might not be an op­tion for Saritha ei­ther. Rea­son: the high cost of hir­ing an at­tor­ney. Six more stu­dents ar­rested in the visa-fraud case were granted bail and re­leased from a de­ten­tion cen­tre in Cal­i­for­nia on Fri­day. A team of lawyers were put to­gether to rep­re­sent the In­dian stu­dents, in­clud­ing the eight re­cruiters from AP and Te­lan­gana, re­ports

As the fed­eral ju­di­ciary has been fac­ing a short­age of judges due to a na­tion-wide ju­di­cial cri­sis, there was a de­lay in get­ting bail

APNRT work­ers are con­fi­dent that more stu­dents will be out of the de­ten­tion cen­tre in Cal­i­for­nia to­day

Ravi Ve­muri, vice-pres­i­dent of Andhra Pradesh Non-Res­i­dent Tel­ugu (APNRT) so­ci­ety, said that US im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms en­force­ment was plan­ning more un­der­cover op­er­a­tions

He ad­vised stu­dents to re­search about any univer­sity in-depth be­fore tak­ing up of­fers

On Jan­uary 30, US im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms en­force­ment ar­rested eight stu­dents who acted as re­cruiters on charges of con­spir­ing to com­mit visa fraud

Apart from the eight re­cruiters, US fed­eral agents also de­tained 129 for en­rolling in a fake univer­sity


ap­pears (from doc­u­ments with TOI) that US Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion (CBP) of­fi­cials de­cided to de­port Saritha be­cause of her am­bigu­ous an­swers over at­ten­dance. Ac­cord­ing to them, while she claimed she at­tended classes at least once a week, she could not pro­vide travel doc­u­ments to sup­port her claim. Saritha was stay­ing in one part of the US and claimed she flew to Michi­gan (where the fake univer­sity is lo­cated) each time. Also, CBP au­thor­i­ties found a cer­tifi­cate of at­ten­dance in her pos­ses­sion that stated she had met the re­quired 80% at­ten­dance, even as the stu­dent her­self later con­fessed she hadn’t. In a sub­se­quent query she also vaguely said that she had phys­i­cally vis­ited the premises only 5-6 times.

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