Telangana

Two Californian institutions under U.S. Govt. scrutiny

Air India had grounded 19 city-based students planning to join the universities as U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBPA) informed the AI that it is in the process of scrutinising both the institutes.

It’s official now. The two Californian institutions — Silicon Valley University, San Jose, and North Western Polytechnic College, Fremont — are under the scrutiny of the U.S. government. Air India (AI) had earlier denied boarding passes to 19 city-based U.S.-bound students who had taken admission to these universities.

As many as 14 Indian students who had earlier travelled on Air India flights to California were not allowed entry into the U.S. and were deported back to India once they landed in San Francisco. Had they been allowed to fly, the students could have faced deportation on reaching California, an AI statement read. It was on December 19 that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBPA) informed the AI’s central office that it is in the process of scrutinising both the Californian institutes.

Alarmingly, as early as in 2012, some students who had travelled to California to take admission to these universities were reportedly deported from San Francisco.

The 19 students who were all packed to travel to California, however, remained determined to go forward with their plan. “The administrative officers of both the universities have informed us that they have the required accreditation. Though it will cost more than the AI fare, we are ready to book tickets in other airlines and fly to the U.S.,” said a student who is currently scouting for tickets online. Most students are expected to fly with travel agent aid. “Some of us now have to shell out an extra Rs. 20,000 on tickets as AI refused to let us fly,” another student said. The students had staged a brief protest at city’s AI office on Monday.

Silicon Valley University (SVU), however, sent individual replies to e-mail queries of each of the students who wrote to them asking for clarification on being “blacklisted”. The mostly identical e-mails, copies of which are with The Hindu , read, “Accreditation is renewed after three or four years. SUV accreditation has been renewed from 2003. In 2017, SUV will apply for fresh renewal.”

However, in one of the e-mails, it has admitted that “six to seven” of its students were denied entry at the San Francisco airport. But it clarified that these students were deported because they “gave conflicting answers to Immigration Officers.” The university also vouched for the safety of its campus.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the new controversy, SVU did send a mild warning asking its students to be prepared for strict CBPA checks. While the university attributed stringent and time-taking CBPA scrutiny to “Paris terror attacks” and “unseen terrorist activities,” it also negated “recent rumours” that the institution itself is “blacklisted.”

Air India, in an official statement, however, explained that it prevented students from flying because at the event of deportation they will have to incur huge expenditure to buy a ticket back to India. “Further, seats are often not available on any airlines to travel back,” the AI communication read.

The airlines clarified that, as a precautionary measure, students who booked for travel to take admission to these universities will not be accepted on AI flights until it gets clearance from the airline’s U.S. office. As for the students who wanted cancellation of tickets, AI has waived all charges involved and airfare was fully refunded, the official spokesperson said.

When asked about the controversy, an authorised official at the U.S. Consulate, Hyderabad, said, “We are indeed aware of the reports that some students were denied entry onto flights to the U.S. At this time we don’t have any further information … but we are seeking clarity on the situation.”

Meanwhile, Northwestern Polytechnic University officials called the AI allegation “false”, adding its officials have been in touch with a CBPA official who stated that the body had not sent out any “general order for US Customs officers”. However, the university authorities asked students who wish to travel by Air India to postpone their trips until the matter gets sorted.

It was on December 19 that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBPA) informed the AI’s central office that it is in the process of scrutinising both the Californian institutes.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 1:20:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/2-californian-institutions-under-us-govt-scrutiny/article8016244.ece

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