Feds Bust White-Collar Immigration Fraud Scheme

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 14, 2011, AT 12:01 A.M. EDT - FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 file picture, students attend graduation ceremonies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The number of borrowers defaulting on federal student loans has jumped sharply, the latest indication that …
AP Photo/Butch Dill

The federal government used a fake university to bust labor traffickers who funneled at least 600 Indian workers into college graduate jobs around the United States, the Detroit News reported.

The newspaper reported:

Federal agents used a fake university in Farmington Hills to lure alleged phony foreign students who were trying to stay in the United States illegally.

The University of Farmington had no staff, no instructors, no curriculum and no classes but was utilized by undercover Homeland Security agents to identify people involved in immigration fraud, according to federal grand jury indictments unsealed Wednesday.

Eight people were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the U.S. illegally, according to the indictments, which describe a novel investigation that dates to 2015 but intensified one month into President Donald Trump’s tenure as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration.

The investigation was pushed forward just one month after President Donald Trump announced his “Hire American” policy in January 2017.

The indictment said the students were expoiting the “Curricular Practical Training” program to get work permits. The program provides one-year work permits to foreign students enrolled in U.S. colleges. In 2017, 132,796 foreigners held CPT work permits, according to federal data.

The CPT program works alongside the larger “Optional Practical Training” program. Many Indians use the “Optional Practical Training” (OPT) program to get visas for work in the United States. The OPT program was created by officials working for former President George W. Bush, and it allows foreign graduates of U.S. universities to work up to three years in the United States. The process creates a huge incentive for people who arrange fake or near-fake university courses to get work permits for cheap white-collar migrants.

The OPT program is defended by universities, technology companies, and investors who benefit from the inflow of fee-paying students or cheap workers. In 2017, 291,635 foreigners were given one-year OPT work permits, and another 60,410 were given three-year OPT work permits. In the two prior years, 67,000 people were given three-year OPT permits. OPT workers are hired by brand name companies, including Amazon, Intel, and Microsoft. Many also transfer into the H-1B program and some are approved for green cards.

Overall, the OPT program keeps roughly 400,000 foreign graduates in U.S. jobs that do not need to be advertised to U.S. graduates. Overall, the various visa programs, including the OPT, CPT, H-1B, TN, O-1, E-3, and J-1 programs, allow U.S. employers to keep a cheap workforce of roughly 1.5 million, non-immigrant, cheap guest workers in white-collar jobs.

The visa programs help flood the white-collar job market and are an economic threat to the tens of millions of college graduate Americans who vote in elections.

So the OPT program is a political problem for Trump, partly because he needs to grow his weak support among suburban college-educated voters. For example, 40 percent of GOP-aligned white college voters would prefer the GOP dump Trump before the 2020 election, according to a January 2018 poll by the Washington Post.

Trump has repeatedly said he wants companies to be able to import legal foreign workers, even as he also highlights the problem of Mexican labor traffickers during the debate over his border wall.

“This [border] crisis threatens the safety of our country and thousands of American lives,” he said January 25. “Criminal cartels, narco-terrorists, transnational gangs like MS-13, and human traffickers are brazenly violating U.S. laws and terrorizing innocent communities,” he said.

On January 9, Trump signed a bill intended to curb labor tracking, according to a White House statement. The bill is the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, which allows the federal government to spend up to $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking.

The Farmington investigation was described by an immigration lawyer, Jack Sung:

1. Students who were arrested by ICE apparently were engaging in the “business” of luring other students who want to pay cheap and receive CPT status to continue working. This is a total violation of immigration regulations. This is not a rumor because the arrests and Notice to Appear seem credible.

2. Students who were arrested were apparently paid a small fee from the student (referral fee?) and compensated by Farmington for their effort to recruit other students who were looking for a quick CPT fix to continue their work authorization or maintaining their F-1 status in the US.

3. Farmington seemed to promise online courses but never provided them. Classes were also promised but never held. Students did not visit campus or meet with professor. They did interact with someone claiming to be the DSO. This is also a violation of immigration regulation requiring CPT recipients to attend classes in regular interval.

A website for Indians in the United States reported that several workers who posed as students have been arrested and face deportation.

Eight people are being charged in the Farmington University case, according to the Detroit News. They are:

Bharath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary, Florida.
Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta.
Suresh Reddy Kandala, 31, of Culpeper, Virginia.
Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky.
Prem Kumar Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Santosh Reddy Sama, 28, of Fremont, California.
Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Naveen Prathipati, 29, of Dallas.

“These suspects aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the United States illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not,” said a statement from an official at the Department of Homeland Security.

The OPT program is being sued by lawyer John Miano on behalf of U.S. technology workers. But Trump’s deputies at the Department of Justice are defending the program, which was never approved by Congress.

In 2012, a labor trafficking investigation by federal officials temporarily closed Herguan University in Silicon Valley. In 2011, officials shut down the Tri-Valley University.

In 2012, the Government Accountability Office said officials should tighten supervision of the OPT program.

Federal agencies have also arrested numerous American and foreign-born CEOs who used the H-1B program as a cover for white-collar labor trafficking.

The establishment’s economic policy of using legal and illegal migration to boost economic growth shifts enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors by flooding the market with cheap white-collar and blue-collar foreign labor.

That annual flood of roughly one million legal immigrants — as well as visa workers and illegal immigrants — spikes profits and Wall Street values by shrinking salaries for 150 million blue-collar and white-collar employees and especially wages for the four million young Americans who join the labor force each year.

The cheap labor policy widens wealth gaps, reduces high tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, hurts kids’ schools and college education, pushes Americans away from high tech careers, and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions.

Immigration also steers investment and wealth away from towns in Heartland states because coastal investors can more easily hire and supervise the large immigrant populations who prefer to live in coastal cities. In turn, that coastal investment flow drives up coastal real estate prices and pushes poor U.S. Americans, including Latinos and blacks, out of prosperous cities such as Berkeley and Oakland, California.

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