A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday names eight suspects accused of "harboring aliens for profit"—and it was a phony university set up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that nabbed them. NBC News reports on the fake "University of Farmington," which set up shop in 2015 near Detroit with the express purpose of luring in individuals who themselves recruited undocumented immigrants to enroll at the school. A rep for ICE in Detroit says the students were originally accepted by a school certified by the Department of Homeland Security and came to the US legally via F-1 visas; they then transferred to the University of Farmington. Prosecutors say the students knew the school was bogus, but enrolled to maintain their F-1 visa—without actually having to do coursework.
Authorities allege the eight "recruiters," who face up to five years in prison if convicted, provided the students with fraudulent evidence that they were compliant with student visa regulations. The recruiters sometimes received thousands of dollars from agents to keep the front going. The school, meanwhile, wasn't even a functioning educational entity, with no real instructors, classes, or curriculum. The Washington Post notes that its website left out key info, like the name of its president. Prosecutors say the defendants were involved in recruiting at least 600 foreign citizens from February 2017 through this month, the Detroit Free Press reports. The paper notes that to stay in the US on student F-1 visas, a foreign student must stay enrolled and keep working toward a degree; otherwise, their time is up after 60 days. It's estimated about 100 students were arrested. (Read more undocumented immigrant stories.)