United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced the arrests of 15 nonimmigrant students through Operation OPTical Illusion. The students, who claimed to be employed by companies that don’t exist, who were found to have allegedly participated in work visa fraud to extend their stay in the United States. Most of the students were identified to be from India.
Operation OPTical Illusion
The “OPT” in the Operation OPTical Illusion stands for Optional Practical Training, a program that enables foreign students to remain in the U.S. and gain work experience after graduating from colleges and universities here. Under OPT, nonimmigrant students can work in their field of study for a period of one year, and students who participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs get an additional 24 months to work in the United States. OPT is available only for foreign students under F-1 and M-1 visa status. Earlier this month, DHS proposed a new rule that significantly changed immigration rules for international students in the United States.
ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated Operation OPTical Illusion, in January of this year to target nonimmigrant students who fraudulently used the OPT program to remain in the United States. DHS and ICE announced the recent arrests by way of a press conference in Pittsburgh. Officials provided no details on the schools that arrestees were affiliated with, nor any details on who they are. The only identifying details were that the arrests included 11 Indian nationals, two Libyan nationals, one Senegalese national, and one Bangladeshi national. The arrests took place in and around Boston, Washington D.C., Houston, Nashville, Ft. Lauderdale, Newark, Pittsburg, and Harrisburg, the press release stated.
About the Arrests
“Today’s announcement is just another example of the Trump Administration not only putting America first but making sure the laws of our 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.”
Tony Pham, interim director of ICE, said that they aim to “strike a delicate balance between supporting and promoting legitimate academic opportunities for students while ensuring student and exchange visitor visas are not exploited by bad actors.”
The press release added that “the agency will continue to vet students who gained new employment through OPT for compliance with their nonimmigrant status. Any identified leads will be reviewed for potential future enforcement.”