Time running out for duped TVU students

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Washington: Hundreds of Indian students, duped by a California-based "sham" university, are frantically knocking at the doors of colleges begging for admission in their desperate attempt to save their academic careers and avoid deportation back home.

These students, said to be around 1,500, were studying at the California-based Tri Valley University, which was shut down by the federal authorities last week after investigation revealed that this relatively new academic institution had indulged in massive and wire fraud and helped foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status.

Following a raid at the University building in Pleasanton, California, federal authorities swooped down on its students – 95 per cent of who are from India, mostly from Andhra Pradesh – for questioning and interrogation.

Immigration attorneys and Indian American community leaders who have been helping these students told PTI that scores of them have been a detained, released on bond, and many of them have been installed with Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (radio tags).

"Time is fast running out for these students," said Ram Mohan Konda of the American Telugu Association.

"These students do not know where to go. They are being asked for thousands of dollars in bond and. At the same time they have to join any university as soon as possible so as to maintain their visa status and complete their studies," Konda said.

Konda, who has been in personal contact with a number of these students, said that they are not able to get any fresh admission because the SEVIS has been blocked.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) of the Department of Homeland Security is the web based programme to track the foreign students in the US.

Until it is active, no university and academic institution can admit any foreign students to their campus.

Also since the fall classes have already begun, it would be difficult for these students to get admission into any college or universities after a week or so, Konda said, adding that authorities have to act fast otherwise most of these students would be left with no other option but to go back voluntarily or be deported.

In some cases students are being asked for bond deposits running into thousands of dollars and a large number of them have been served with Notice to Appear (which is considered as the first step towards the start of deportation process).

Raj Akula, a Texas-based attorney, said that he knows at least 20 such students who have been subject to detention.

While many of them have been released on bail, a few of them are still in the detention centres as they have not been able to furnish the bond money.

These students are spread across the country — Ohio, Illinois, Washington and Pennsylvania.

One of the students was released early this week from a Ohio detention centre only after he furnished a bond of a USD 22,000, Akola said refraining from identifying the student, who do not want to be named in the press.

Another student in Ohio is still languishing in the detention centre as he has not been able to manage the USD 22,000 required for the bond.

On behalf of the said student, Akula has approached the local court to reduce the bond amount.

"This is outrageous," Akula said of the high bond money.

"There are ways to get a bond hearing reduce the bond amount, but that means another three to four weeks of detention for these students," he said.

However, the bond money in other States are not as high as that of Ohio.

In Illinois it is USD 5,000 while in Washington it is USD 15,000.

Akula said he has information about Indian students in detention centres in Detroit, Chicago and Pennsylvania.

The treatment being meted out to these students depends on the law of the State.

For instance in California a large number of them have been installed with radio tags, said Jayaram Komati, president of Telugu Association of North America.

In a notice, posted on its website, the Indian Consulate in San Francisco said the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is expected to bring out a detailed advisory for all students of Tri Valley University (TVU) sometime next week which will be available on its website.

"It will provide guidance to eligible students regarding what they can do to seek admission in other schools. There will be no blanket reactivation of SEVIS."

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