Federal law enforcement agencies have arrested 15 students, including 11 from India, on charges of fraudulently staying inside the country.
These students were arrested Wednesday from various locations in Boston, Washington, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Newark, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. In addition to 11 Indian nationals, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement also arrested two Libyans, one Senegalese and one Bangladeshi national.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, the arrests were made as a result of Operation Optical Illusion, a law enforcement operation targeting nonimmigrant students who fraudulently used the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to remain in the US.
OPT enables nonimmigrant students to work in the US in positions related to their field of study for up to one year, with an additional 24 months if the student participates in STEM optional practical training.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said these students claimed to be employed by companies that do not exist.
"This is just another example of the Trump Administration not only putting America first but making sure the laws of the immigration system are enforced," said Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.
"Every instance of fraud is a job an American worker could have had, and with so many Americans looking for work this crime is even more unacceptable," he said.
"ICE has a system of checks in place to mitigate fraud and is committed to protecting national security by ensuring that students, visitors, and schools comply with US immigration laws," said ICE Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tony Pham.
"These latest arrests demonstrate that the agency is actively targeting individuals who try to exploit the student visa system," he said.