SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — If you want to come to the United States and get a job, it’s a well-known “secret” that a student visa is the easy ticket in.
Several colleges in California have recently been caught abusing the system. Now KPIX 5 has learned Homeland Security wants to shut another one down. It’s a bay area school Devin Fehely investigated a year ago.
This is what we saw in an undercover visit to International Technological University in 2015: Deserted hallways and half-empty classrooms, even though 2700 students were enrolled.
Fast forward to 2016 and things at the San Jose college look pretty much the same. But ITU’s president Dr. Gregory O’Brien says he’s made big changes since our last visit.
“Today I am very comfortable that this is a quality institution doing things the right way,” he said.
He says attendance now is closely monitored to make sure students are really studying. And off campus internships are strictly supervised.
“I think we talked to you last year of the fact that we were in the middle of a major reform of our internship policy,” said Dr. O’Brien.
But it seems the reforms have not convinced Homeland Security. They have issued a so-called Notice of Intent to Withdraw the university from the Student and Exchange Visitor’s Program. Schools that are not part of the program cannot accept foreign students. That’s essentially almost everyone attending class here.
Sources tell KPIX 5 the government’s investigation centers on the school’s internship program.
Through a Freedom of Information request we obtained a list of companies that provided ITU students paid internships over the last 5 years. Turns out most of them are placement agencies, like Betasoft Systems. Close to 400 students from ITU took internships with the company.
“It’s so unethical it’s wrong,” said Sabeen Sadiq.
She was not an ITU student but she signed up for a 6-week training course in 2014. She says it turned out to be training on how to fake your way into a job. She says Betasoft created fake resumes for the people who signed up with them.
“There were like 2 pages of false experience, saying that I, you know, worked for AT&T in Texas, and like all of this stuff that I have never done in my life,” said Sabeen.
Betasoft is no longer in business but its owners now run another placement company called US IT Solutions. We paid them an undercover visit. A woman told our producer that the training Sabeen took is no longer offered. “We only employ people who have 3-4 years relevant IT experience,” she said.
But she said foreign students are welcome and can be fast-tracked into the workforce. “We can sponsor their H1, not a problem,” she told our producer.
“That is very problematic,” said Jessica Vaughn, with the Center for Immigration Studies. “If their employer is listed as a placement agency, then the government has no way to keep track of if they are working at all or if they have disappeared,” she said.
KPIX 5 asked her from a national security standpoint why it’s important to make sure that these are, in fact, legitimate students. Her response: “Student visas are issued for a much longer period of time than other kinds of visas like business or tourist visas, so they are really coveted by terrorist organizations in particular.”
Back at ITU, Dr. O’Brien says despite the school’s past problems he remains convinced that its current reforms will satisfy government regulators.
“I can’t tell you that ITU was always doing everything the right way,” he said. “But since 2015 when I came, I believe we are in very good shape.”
US IT Solutions turned down KPIX 5’s request for an interview, but in a statement the company says it has no relationship with ITU or Betasoft. The company did respond to our emailed questions. Here’s what they sent:
US IT Solutions is a professional services company that specializes in providing information technology consulting and staffing resources. US IT Solutions provides a wide range of customized managed staffing services and staffing solutions including: permanent placement, contract to hire placement, long and short term consulting engagements, global staffing, dedicated on-site service, and expert sourcing of highly qualified, diverse talent. Our placements range from US nationals to permanent residents, work visa holders, and others entitled to work in the US. US IT Solutions has never provided work training services or related services.
US IT Solutions does not have any relationship with ITU, other than a small number of the employees we have hired and placed, were from ITU. We have had no direct communication with anyone at ITU, and have never ever visited the college, or met someone there, or conducted any recruitment drives or job fairs there. Our primary focus in considering applicants for employment, is whether they are legally eligible to work in the United States, and what school they may have attended, is not a factor in hiring or placement.
Beta Soft Systems is closed and no longer in business, so we cannot comment on that. Currently we have only 5 employees who attended ITU, which is not even 3% of the total number of our current employees. Of these 5, 2 previously worked with Beta Soft Systems, and the other 3 we hired are referrals from our existing employees. They are presently working at client sites. The employees have confidentiality rights under California law that we are obligated to honor, and our clients also have confidentiality understandings with our company, so we are not able to divulge the work sites for these five employees.
We understand CBS’s focus on ITU, but as evident in the answers above, US IT Solutions neither has any relationship with ITU, nor does it perform any of the training or resume-related work with employees that other companies continue to do in this area. US IT Solutions is a new entity that has been working very hard over the last year to build and sustain our business and to provide gainful employment for over 100 people in this area, and any inaccurate report falsely tying us to another company could be very harmful to the business and the many employees and their families who rely on us. We are compliant with all the state and federal laws, and hire only qualified people to work for us. We are running a very clean business and are working very hard to grow it by providing employment for qualified US nationals and work-eligible residents. Given our lack of connection or significant number of employees from ITU, we respectfully suggest that US IT Solutions is not a worthwhile focus of this story, and would prefer that we not be included in it.