(CBS/AP) The government of India is urging the United States to show leniency toward Indian students who were enrolled at Tri-Valley University in California, which U.S. authorities say was a front for illegal immigration.
The U.S. attorney's office alleges the owner of the "sham 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.
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 could be deported if they are found to be in the country illegally.
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. "...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.
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.
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