Senators demand investigations into 'sham universities' in US

"These sham universities are not real institutions of higher learning, but rather, operate solely for the purpose of manipulating immigration law to admit foreign nationals into the country," the four Senators said in a letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Written by Senators Dianne Feinstein, Claire McCaskill, Charles Schumer and Jon Tester, the letter was released to the press yesterday.

"'Sham universities' are gaming the system, and while they are at it, they're putting our nation's security at risk. This has got to stop," McCaskill said.

"America is a nation of laws, and as we keep working to fully secure our nation's borders, we've got to lock any other back door that people are using to illegally enter our country.

"By abusing the system and ignoring our laws, these sham schools are threatening our security and threatening what student visas are supposed to accomplish. I'm fighting to make sure every one of these shams gets shut down," said Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

The Senators outlined a plan to combat such fake universities, which includes developing a list of high-risk factors that point to fraud within 90 days; conduct site-visits to every school that uses student visas and that exhibits such high risk factors within the next year; implementing greater information sharing between federal agencies regarding schools granting student visas and requiring stiffer penalties.

They Senators referred to the recent incident involving the Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, California, where over 1,500 students from foreign countries obtained student visas to enroll in an unaccredited school that failed to provide the education required under America's student visa laws.

Observing that the student visa program was a critical part of America's legal immigration system, the Senators said this provides colleges and universities with much needed capital from international students paying full tuition and also provides America with the opportunity to educate the world's future leaders about its values such as freedom, democracy, and a free-enterprise economy.

"But, when the student visa program can easily be manipulated by bad actors, it threatens the viability of the entire program for the large majority of bona fide participants.

"Fraud in the student visa program is especially troubling given that several of the 9111 terrorists entered the country using the student visa program," they said in the letter.
The Senators also demanded tougher penalties for violation for visa fraud.

"The existing penalties for student visa fraud are simply too low to deter bad actors who can reap large rewards by operating for-profit sham universities and charging foreigners thousands of dollars to come to the United States.

"These new penalties will assist you in obtaining justice for the bad actors who compromise our system," the letter said.


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