ICE arrested 250 foreign-born people for the most heinous of crimes: pursuing higher education

For the last year, the Detroit Free Press has been reporting on the strange saga of the University of Farmington, a fake educational institution outside of Detroit. Homeland Security Investigations actually spent taxpayer dollars on an epic sting operation, renting out a building to create the appearance of a legitimate college campus staffed with actual ICE agents in order to apprehend…people who want to go to college.

As of November 2019, they've arrested about 250 people on immigration violations. From the latest Detroit Free Press update:

Out of the approximately 250 students arrested on administrative charges, "nearly 80% were granted voluntary departure and departed the United States," the Detroit office of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) told the Free Press in a statement Tuesday.

Out of the remaining 20%, about half of them have received a final order of removal; some of them were ordered removed by an immigration judge, and others "were given an expedited removal by U.S. Customs and Border Protection," said HSI Detroit.

The remaining 10% "have either filed for some sort of relief or are contesting their removals with Executive Office for Immigration Review," said HSI Detroit.

To be clear: this is not a new Trumpian phenomenon. It's been going on since January 2016 (although the majority of the arrests have taken place more recently, including 90 since this past March).

And if that's not maddening enough, consider that there were several hundred other students at the university who weren't arrested for immigration violations. The total enrollment was around 600 students, and the school was charging about $12,000 per year for tuition and fees. Maybe that's the counter-argument to the taxpayer burden of setting up such a stupidly elaborate scheme—"Hey, at least it's self-funding, right?"—but mostly it just adds insult to injury. The other counter-argument that ICE has made in their defense? That the school had no physical classrooms, and the course load was a joke, so the students should have known they were getting scammed.

It gets even weirder. Some of the students who were arrested were also charged with "conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbor aliens for profit"—because they were recruiting other students to enroll in the university, in what the indictments called a "pay to stay" scheme.

In other words: ICE setup a fake university, then tricked foreign-born students into participating in a pyramid scheme for said university, and then arrested them for con-artistry.

Do you feel safer now?

Farmington Hills fake university set up by ICE to nab foreign students and ICE arrests 90 more students at fake university in Michigan [Niraj Warikoo / Detroit Free Press]

Image via Master Steve Rappaport/Flickr