Washington: After being duped by a California-based "sham" university, scores of Indian students in the US are now enduring the ignominy of being forced to wear radio collars around their ankles so that authorities can keep track of their movements.
The students, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, may also be deported as authorities shut down Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, a major suburb in San Francisco Bay Area, on charges of a massive immigration fraud.
A number of students were interrogated by authorities and also forced to wear radio collars fitted with GPS technology to track their movements.
Students have sent petitions to the US Homeland Security department and US Immigration Department saying they haven't violated any law and they should not be seen as offenders but as victims.
"They (the students) were tagged with some sort of monitoring system placed on their ankles," Jayaram Komati of the Telugu Association of North America told a private Indian channel.
"...it is none of their (the students') fault, but the university is at fault as it violated some rules and regulations because of which all the students are being victimised in this whole situation. We heard that (External Affairs Minister) SM Krishna is trying to talk to the State Department. Hopefully this type of pressure will make this much easier (to resolve the issue)," he was quoted as saying.
An unnamed Indian student, who was among those duped, said the university was shut down all of a sudden.
"We don't know what is happening with the university and the US government. We have been told that we are illegal immigrants," he was quoted as saying by the channel, adding that 100 students of the university, which had a total of 4,400, have been affected.
"We went to the local Senator and the Indian embassy. We also met the local attorney to help us but everyone is saying that this is the deportation process. People from immigration office came to my room and said they needed some information about our college. Before going, they put tags on our ankles and said this is the tracking system."
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley on Friday said that any activity involving visa fraud would obviously be of great concern to the US. "The investigation of that is done by law enforcement, obviously with our cooperation, since we are the ones who issue visas."
According to a federal complaint filed in a California court last week, the University helped foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status. The students are reported to have paid lakhs of rupees for obtaining a visa for their category and also for students work permit.
Investigations by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) found that while students were admitted to various residential and on-line courses of the university and on paper lived in California, in reality they "illegally" worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas. ICE called Tri-Valley a "sham university".
With inputs from PTI