United States officials say 21 people were arrested for their reported involvement in a plot to help foreign nationals stay in the country illegally.
The program enabled over 1,000 foreigners to remain in the US by claiming to work at or attend a university that does not exist.
Officials say those arrested knew that the University of Northern New Jersey had no teachers, classes or programs. But the defendants did not know it was created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help fight visa fraud.
Paul Fishman is the federal government’s top attorney for New Jersey. He told reporters that individuals and companies that help foreigners request visas began contacting the fake university soon after its creation in 2013.
The Associated Press news agency reported that some defendants paid the federal agents operating the university thousands of dollars. In return, they received documents that showed students were attending classes or working for the school.
This enabled the foreigners to keep their visas without attending classes. The students paid the visa brokers thousands of dollars for their help.
The plot affected foreign nationals from more than 20 countries. But most of them were from India and China. They had entered the United States legally using non-immigrant, student visas. But they wanted to stay in the U.S. longer, either by having their student visas extended or by being given work visas.
U.S. Attorney Fishman said the government knows who these people are. He said they will be investigated by federal immigration officers, but not charged in the case. Most of them will be forced to leave the country.
One law enforcement official told The New York Times newspaper that some of the students used the illegally-given work visas to get jobs at Facebook and Apple. ABC News reported that another student with an illegal visa entered the Army.
Government officials told The New York Times that most of the 1.2 million foreigners who entered the U.S. using student visas are attending legitimate universities. But there have been reports of student visa fraud across the country. This has caused immigration officials to worry about the country’s security. They have been pressured to fully investigate those who seek visas to see if they have links to terrorism.
I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.
VOA’s Esha Grover reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
fraud - n. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person
fake - adj. meant to look real or genuine but not real or genuine
broker - n. a person who helps other people to reach agreements or to make deals
legitimate - adj. real, accepted or official