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Lawyer Sheree Wright: The University of Farmington and the Lack of Change Under the Current Administration

Sheree Wright, one of the Plaintiffs lawyers in a lawsuit that was filed on July 23, 2020

Sheree Wright, one of the Plaintiffs lawyers in a lawsuit that was filed on July 23, 2020, against the United States by would-be students who are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from the US government, has made it clear that the current administration should follow suit and not move to dismiss the current lawsuit. 

The complaint filed in the District Court of Arizona challenges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (“DHS”) determination that Plaintiffs knowingly participated in visa fraud by enrolling at the University of Farmington in Metro Detroit.

Background

In November 2015, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) unit established a university in Farmington Hills, Michigan called the University of Farmington. HSI established University of Farmington as part of an ICE sting operation targeting unscrupulous academic recruiters and brokers who prey on foreign students seeking to maintain their valid F-1 status.

These brokers steer students to enroll in schools whose principal objective is not to provide bona fide academic programs but to enrich their proprietors through substantial fees and tuition while offering students no meaningful educational opportunities.

Attorney Wright says,

Allthough such brokers are often aware that such schools are acting improperly, they often abuse students’ trust and mislead them into believing that such schools are acting lawfully by facilitating practical training through the F-1 program.

These brokers exploit the fact that in many countries, prospective students routinely engage academic brokers to assist with the process of identifying and enrolling in universities. They also take advantage of widespread misinformation concerning the F-1 program and the complexity of the program’s rules to convince their clients that the school’s offerings are legitimate.

By all outside appearances, the University of Farmington was a legitimate university occupying a building in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and managing a highly visible presence, including an elaborate official website and a highly active Facebook and Twitter accounts.

In January 2019, ICE permanently shut down University of Farmington. On January 30, 2019, ICE and the Department of Justice announced the arrest of 8 brokers and recruiters for visa fraud and other crimes in connection with the University of Farmington operation. Immediately following the operation’s public announcement, ICE began terminating the SEVIS records and I-20s for each of the more than 100 noncitizens who had enrolled at the University of Farmington for their “fraudulent enrollment.”

Specifically, ICE made a blanket finding that any noncitizen who enrolled in University of Farmington knowingly participated in visa fraud by enrolling at the University of Farmington for the sole purpose of illegally obtaining and/or maintaining their F-1 nonimmigrant status. ICE did not provide students with an individualized hearing or any meaningful opportunity to contest its determination that they had committed knowing visa fraud by enrolling in the University of Farmington.

On November 29, 2019, then-Senator Kamala Harris tweeted that “the scheme behind the fraudulent school was not just cruel, it’s a waste of taxpayers dollars.”

Nonetheless, this current administration is not following suit. On March 26, 2021, this administration sought to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction over the Plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff’s counsel also filed a Motion for Summary Judgement and the reply brief are due within the next couple of weeks. Attorney Wright believes the best thing for this administration to do is to file a supportive reply to Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and end this long haul.

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Written by Max Reynolds

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