The U.S. Department of Homeland Security raided the University of Northern Virginia on Thursday morning, hauling away computers and boxes of paperwork and notifying the suburban Washington institution that it may lose its ability to accept foreign students.
The institution was one of the subjects of a Chronicle investigation earlier this year that examined how little-known, and often unaccredited, colleges exploit U.S. visa loopholes to admit foreign students.
The university, Ms. Bassett said, can continue to hold classes but will be temporarily blocked from accepting new international students.
The raid on Northern Virginia, which has called itself the most popular American university for Indian students, is likely to cause an uproar in India, the second-largest sender of foreign students to the United States. A similar raid last winter on a California institution, Tri-Valley University, sparked intense media coverage in India, with newspapers and television shows there portraying oversight of the U.S. visa system as incompetent.
The Chronicle’s report found that, like Tri-Valley, nearly all of Northern Virginia’s students are in the United States on visas, and the vast majority are from India. The university enrolls a little more 2,000 students, almost all from overseas, according to Daniel Ho, the university’s founder and majority owner.
Also like Tri-Valley, Northern Virginia has students who live in other states, some as far away as New York and Ohio. Federal regulations say that foreign students must be physically present on campus and can take no more than a single course per semester online. Northern Virginia officials have said that its students commute regularly to Virginia to attend classes.
NDTV, July 29, 2011
The US has promised to protect the interests of hundreds of Indian students at the University of Northern Virginia (UNVA), which was raided yesterday by investigating and law enforcement agencies on charges of visa fraud. In a day-long exercise, dozens of officials from different federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), entered the Annandale campus of the university and took away with them a large number of boxes full of documents and computer hard drives from its administrative division.
Based in Annandale, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, the university is reported to have 2,400 students of which 90 per cent are from India. Of these, an overwhelming majority are said to be from Andhra Pradesh.
Based on the experience of the Tri-Valley case, and given that India had strongly objected to the manner in which its students were treated, US authorities have informed their Indian counterparts that they would handle this case and follow-up action in a different manner.
In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said, “We have impressed upon the US authorities the need to ensure that the students are not victimized in any manner, since they all have valid documents. We have been told that the focus of investigations is not on the students but on UNVA itself. The Ministry and our Mission in Washington are closely following the developments and are in the process of obtaining all details in the matter.”
MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash, added, “It is further understood that there will not be a mass termination of UNVA students SEVIS records. The US authorities are taking steps to provide necessary information to help the students transfer to other educational institutions in the US or go back to their home countries.”
US immigration Officials also made it clear that there would be no arrests, detention or electronic monitoring of students. They also said that the university would not be immediately shut down; it had been given a months’ notice to explain.