PLEASANTON (AP) — The government of India is urging the United States to show leniency toward Indian students who were enrolled at a “sham university” in the East Bay that U.S. authorities say was a front for illegal immigration.

The U.S. attorney’s office alleges the owner of Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton used the unaccredited school to charge foreigners millions of dollars in tuition fees and help them obtain student visas to stay in the U.S.

Officials at Tri-Valley did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

There were 1,555 students enrolled at Tri-Valley last fall and about 95 percent of them were from India, according to a complaint filed Jan. 19 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Many of those students, who took Tri-Valley courses online, could be deported if they are found to be in violation of their immigration status.

Indian officials say the students are being “treated like criminals” by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents even though they were issued valid U.S. visas by American consular officials in India.

“I don’t think any of them had any idea this was a sham university,” said Susmita Gongulee Thomas, consul general of India in San Francisco. “I don’t think any of them had the motivation to defraud any rules of the U.S. government … These students came here genuinely to improve their prospects and they should not be criminalized or victimized.”

Students told Indian consulate officials that they were searched, treated rudely and handcuffed before being taken into immigration offices for questioning, Thomas said.

Many have been forced to wear ankle bracelets to track their movements with radio frequency signals, and they must report to immigration officials regularly while they go through deportation proceedings, Gongulee Thomas said.

Indian officials are asking the U.S. government to stop requiring the students to wear the ankle monitors.

“They felt threatened and intimidated by the ICE officials,” Thomas said. “We in India do not treat anyone other than criminals with anything that resembles ankle bracelets or handcuffs.”

In New Delhi, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna expressed concern about the way the students have been treated.

“We demand that the U.S. government initiate severe action against those officials responsible for this inhuman act. Indian students are not criminals,” Krishna said Monday. “The radio collars should immediately be removed.”

“The Ministry will extend all help to the students. The parents need not worry since the matter has been taken up with appropriate authorities,” Krishna added.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday the use of radio monitors is widespread and standard for investigations and “does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity.”

“It allows for freedom of movement and is a positive alternative to confinement during a pending investigation,” Crowley said.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Agency is establishing a help line for the Indian students affected by the school’s closure, Crowley said.

Indian officials are asking that the students be allowed to transfer to other U.S. universities or be allowed to return to India without being deported, which would prevent them from returning to the U.S. and hurt their employment prospects back home, Thomas said.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (8)
  1. smitty says:

    Send them back to India. They broke the law. Plain and simple. How is it that the government is allowing employeers to hire Indians over US citizens??. No wonder US citizens cannot find jobs. The Illegals and Indians are taking them.

    1. smart says:

      What did the students do? Why would they have suffer for the misery act done by USA People.
      I understand your frsturaction of india people taking JOBS. That’s no way related to this. let’s not forget the fact that Big companies are running becuase of indian intellectuals. Otherwise, those companies are nothing.

  2. dead_than_red says:

    Really? What laws did the VICTIMS of the scam break?

    With regard to your question, that’s a good question; but I thought you folks didn’t want the big, bad government telling your corporate overlords what to do..

  3. alice says:

    I was one of their students and found out that they were unacredited, or suspected so. I asked for proof and the owner Susan Su, told me by e mail not to call or write her anymore as she did not like the likes of me. I kept putting off following through with this and wasn’t shocked to see the article. I will try to get my money back, but have a feeling it is all spent..

  4. kalmeida317 says:

    I think everyone needs to take some responsibility here, including some of the students who were not well educated on the institution they were joining.