US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, that fifteen international students have been arrested after allegedly using a student work visa job program in order to stay in the United States.
The arrests came as preliminary results from a law enforcement investigation which commenced in January, named the Operation OPTical Illusion, an operation that is still continuing, Erudera College News reports.
According to a press release issued by ICE, the 15 arrested non-immigrant students have claimed to be working in non-existent companies. Among the arrested students, 11 of them were of Indian nationality, two Libyan nationals, one Bangladeshi national, and one Senegalese national.
Following this event, the Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli stated that the United States is making sure to work towards enforcing the immigration system laws.
“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.
Moreover, ICE Senior Official now performing the Duties of Director Tony Pham said that the event should serve as a warning as the 15 arrests are just the beginning.
“Any non-immigrant student who fails to maintain or violates the terms of their non-immigration status is subject to arrest and removal from the United States,” Tony Pham said.
Whereas, an investigation conducted jointly by NBC News and NBC’s Bay Area Station has found that F-1 visa programs have been used illicitly by fake companies which have offered false employment verifications.
Officials from the ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Wednesday that around 1,100 internationals did not respect the law, adding that ICE has delivered letters to 700 of them, announcing their work permits have been cancelled.
Among others, the press release stated that the arrests occurred in several cities across the United States, including Boston, Washington, D.C, Houston, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, etc.
The “OPT”, which stands for “Optional Practical Training,” is a program that permits international students to work while studying in the United States. Through this program, students who possess F-1 and M-1 student visas are allowed to work for up to one year, while the job must be related to their field of study.
Last month, the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers were cancelled by the United States, with the justification that these foreigners pose a risk to national security.