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Updated: March 8, 2011 11:02 IST

Tri-Valley fallout: Senators for tough action on fake univs

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Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California is one of four leading law makers who have demanded tough action against 'sham universities' that fuel illegal immigration into the US.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California is one of four leading law makers who have demanded tough action against 'sham universities' that fuel illegal immigration into the US.

Four influential US Senators have demanded a crackdown on “sham universities” for helping foreign nationals “illegally” enter America.

“These sham universities are not real institutions of higher learning, but rather, operate solely for the purpose of manipulating immigration law to admit foreign nationals into the country,” the four Senators said in a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Written by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Claire McCaskill, Charles Schumer and Jon Tester, the letter was released to the press on Monday.

“’Sham universities’ are gaming the system, and while they are at it, they’re putting our nation’s security at risk. This has got to stop,” Ms McCaskill said. “America is a nation of laws, and as we keep working to fully secure our nation’s borders, we’ve got to lock any other back door that people are using to illegally enter our country.”

“By abusing the system and ignoring our laws, these sham schools are threatening our security and threatening what student visas are supposed to accomplish. I’m fighting to make sure every one of these shams gets shut down,” said Mr Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

The Senators also demanded tougher penalties for violation for visa fraud. “The existing penalties for student visa fraud are simply too low to deter bad actors who can reap large rewards by operating for-profit sham universities and charging foreigners thousands of dollars to come to the United States.

“These new penalties will assist you in obtaining justice for the bad actors who compromise our system,” the letter said.

The Senators outlined a plan to combat such fake universities, which includes developing a list of high-risk factors that point to fraud within 90 days; conduct site-visits to every school that issues student visas and that exhibits such high risk factors within the next year; implementing greater information sharing between federal agencies regarding schools granting student visas and requiring stiffer penalties.

The Senators referred to the recent incident involving the Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, California, where over 1,500 students from foreign countries obtained student visas to enroll in an unaccredited school that failed to provide the education required under America’s student visa laws.

Observing that the student visa program was a critical part of America’s legal immigration system, the Senators said this provides colleges and universities with much needed capital from international students paying full tuition. “But, when the student visa program can easily be manipulated by bad actors, it threatens the viability of the entire program for the large majority of bona fide participants. Fraud in the student visa program is especially troubling given that several of the 9/11 terrorists entered the country using the student visa program,” they said in the letter.

The Senators also demanded tougher penalties for violation for visa fraud. “The existing penalties for student visa fraud are simply too low to deter bad actors who can reap large rewards by operating for-profit sham universities and charging foreigners thousands of dollars to come to the United States.

“These new penalties will assist you in obtaining justice for the bad actors who compromise our system,” the letter said.

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