Stinging India-US relations again?

The arrest of 129 Indian nationals in the United States on charges of wilfully violating US immigration laws should serve as a cautionary reminder to others aspiring to go there for study or work to not only follow US immigration laws diligently but also to be more vigilant of fraudsters throughout the application and visa process. Eight recruiters of Indian origin, who lured the 129 students to the US, have been arrested, too. Prosecutors allege that the 129 students were aware of the ‘pay-to-stay’ scheme run by the eight recruiters and knowingly enrolled into a fake school to secure student visas and remain in the US. The US crackdown on Indian immigrants is the outcome of a sting operation conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security. The officials set up a fake ‘University of Farmington’ to trap the students. If convicted, the 129 Indians, who are now in US custody, face imprisonment and deportation back to India. They could be debarred for life from entering the US again. In effect, their American dream is likely to be crushed.

The Ministry of External Affairs has done well to react swiftly. It has gotten in touch with the arrested students. It must ensure that they have the best legal support. Additionally, India should ensure that all the students are not tarred with the same brush. It is unlikely that all of them knowingly entered the US illegally. Many of them are likely to be innocent victims of fraud. The MEA should intervene to ensure that the US does not treat all those arrested as criminals. Innocent victims among them should not have to pay the price for the actions of a handful of fraudsters. Each student’s case must be dealt with individually by the courts.

While the US’ concern over illegal immigration is understandable to some extent, that it resorted to a sting operation, involving deception, to trap students raises moral and ethical questions. Besides, it raises questions regarding the real motivation of the US government in targeting Indians, who are known to be a model immigrant community in the US, now. Is it aimed at pressuring India at a time when relations are strained? It may be recalled that in 2014, in the last few months of the UPA government, the US charged Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade with committing visa fraud and subjected her to a humiliating strip search and dragged her to face the courts in violation of her right to diplomatic immunity, setting back India-US relations. In recent months, US President Donald Trump has repeatedly snubbed India. The arrest of Indian students and their public humiliation seems aimed at embarrassing India again. India should not take this lightly.

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Stinging India-US relations again?

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