In 2015, agents from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) established a fake university as a means of exposing fraudulent student visas in the United States. The University of Farmington, which advertised top-tier graduate STEM and business programs for students, provided access to F-1 student visas that would allow immigrant students to remain in the U.S. while they receive their education.
Between 2017 and 2019, 600 foreign students were recruited to the university, and over 250 students have been arrested for visa fraud thus far.
The ICE agents at the head of this trap defend its legitimacy by insisting that the enrolled students were fully aware of the university's fraudulent nature. What makes this assumption unclear is the emphasis placed on its legitimacy by agents in charge. The University of Farmington had various social media accounts, a website, recruiters, tuition pricing, and a place on the Department of Homeland Security's list of internationally-certified schools. The assumption that every student recognized these false pretenses of credibility and knowingly enrolled anyway is a difficult one to make given the circumstances.
Regardless of whether or not prosecutors are correct in asserting that students knew of the university's illegitimacy, it's crucial to take a step back and recognize how slimy this undertaking really was. Enter the very definition of entrapment, which encompasses all "repugnant behavior such as the use of threats, harassment, fraud, or even flattery "used as a means to induce someone to commit a crime.
When ICE agents were formulating the University of Farmington, they did not stop at creating a website. They did not stop at establishing a headquarters, or even at advertising falsely accredited graduate programs. The agents went so far as to pay recruiters to actively seek out potential students and to charge these students tuition once "accepted" to the university. The establishment and upkeep of the university was nothing short of fraud, and the ability of the federal government to so blatantly attack vulnerable immigrant students with this kind of entrapment is extremely concerning.
Even under the pretense of keeping our country safe by preventing visa fraud, federal agents have absolutely no business achieving this end through deceit and corruption.
When someone is convicted of a crime and faced with deportation, there should be no question about whether or not they actually broke the law. Everyone on American soil is subject to the protections of the Bill of Rights, and that includes due process. If the actions of these ICE agents can be defined as entrapment (which, by any definition, they can), then the indictments of all of the immigrant students involved should be dismissed. Time and energy should be spent seeking those who have actually, undoubtedly broke the law, not those who may or may not be victims of government fraud.
International students already here on valid visas should not fear the presence of undercover federal agents who are ready to pounce the second they let their guard down. America was not meant to function under a government that can commit fraud and deception whenever it pleases, and it's a shame that a country built on the backs of immigrants employs these tools in order to keep them out. The United States government does not and will never have unlimited power over the people, and it is for this reason that it is so crucial to recognize and challenge concerning power plays like this one.