WASHINGTON — Fifteen overseas scholars had been arrested for allegedly the usage of a scholar paintings visa task program to stick within the U.S. fraudulently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement introduced on Wednesday.
Officers from ICE and the Division of Hometown Safety mentioned the scholars. maximum from India, had claimed to paintings for firms that do not exist, and that the arrests had been initial effects from a regulation enforcement investigation that started in January referred to as Operation OPTical Phantasm.
“The arrests we spotlight lately are only the start and will have to function a caution,” mentioned Tony Pham, the senior legitimate now acting the obligation of ICE director. “Any non-immigrant scholar who fails to take care of or violates the phrases in their non-immigration standing is matter to arrest and elimination from the US.”
The “OPT” within the operation’s identify refers to “Not obligatory Sensible Coaching,” a program presented to overseas scholars permitting them to stay within the U.S. and acquire paintings enjoy whilst learning in, and after graduating from, American schools and universities. OPT is transient employment, approved to scholars with F-1 and M-1 scholar visas, and will have to be without delay associated with a scholar’s primary house of research.
A joint investigation by means of NBC Information and NBC’s Bay House station discovered the F-1 visa program seems to had been exploited by means of faux firms offering false employment verifications.
In Might, mentioning NBC Information reporting, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, requested DHS to respond to questions in regards to the scope of fraud in a U.S. scholar visa program.
DHS and ICE officers mentioned Wednesday that their investigation had known 1,100 overseas nationals who gave the look to be “now not obeying the regulation.” The officers mentioned ICE had despatched letters to 700 of them informing them it used to be revoking their paintings lets in.
An ICE press free up mentioned the 15 arrests “happened in and round” Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Nashville, amongst different towns. The ones arrested integrated 11 Indian nationals, two Libyan nationals, one Senegalese nationwide and one Bangladeshi nationwide.
Ken Cuccinelli, the senior legitimate acting the tasks of DHS deputy secretary, mentioned the enforcement movements “will open up the ones jobs for American staff.”
“That has been an overly top precedence for this president,” he mentioned.
Pham mentioned that ICE would proceed to “establish, find and take suitable motion towards those violators.”
“Further levels of Operation OPTical Phantasm are underway,” he mentioned. “Our staff of particular brokers proceed to analyze each fraudulent employers and scholar violators.”