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ICE Arrests 11 Indian Students Across the U.S. for OPT Fraud
WASHINGTON, DC -U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Oct. 21 announced preliminary results from Operation OPTical Illusion, a law enforcement operation targeting nonimmigrant students who fraudulently used the Optional Practical Training program to remain in the United States, making 15 arrests of nonimmigrant students.
OPT enables nonimmigrant students to work in the United States in positions related to their field of study for up to one year, with an additional 24 months if the student participates in STEM optional practical training, permitted to students with F-1 and M-1 student visas, ICE notes in a news release.
The operation, which is ongoing, resulted in the arrest of 15 nonimmigrant students who claimed to be employed by companies that don’t exist, it said.
“Today’s announcement is just another example of the Trump Administration not only putting America first but making sure the laws of our immigration system are enforced,” Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement.
“Every instance of fraud is a job an American worker could have had, and with so many Americans looking for work this crime is even more unacceptable,” Cuccinelli added.
The 15 arrests took place in and around Boston, Massachusetts; the Washington, D.C., area; Houston, Texas; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Newark, New Jersey; Nashville, Tennessee; as well as Pittsburgh and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania.
Among those arrested included 11 Indian nationals, two Libyan nationals, one Senegalese national and one Bangladeshi national.
A joint investigation by NBC News and NBC’s Bay Area station found the F-1 visa program appears to have been exploited by fake companies providing false employment verifications.
In May, citing NBC News reporting, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, asked DHS to answer questions about the scope of fraud in a U.S. student visa program, according to the NBC report.
DHS and ICE officials said that their investigation had identified 1,100 foreign nationals who appeared to be “not obeying the law.”
The officials said ICE had sent letters to 700 of them informing them it was revoking their work permits, according to the report.
The agency said it will continue to vet students who gained new employment through OPT for compliance with their nonimmigrant status. Any identified leads will be reviewed for potential future enforcement, it said.