Murthy Urges DHS, ICE and CIS Ombudsman to Help TVU Students04 Feb 2011
In response to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on January 20, 2011 against Tri-Valley University (TVU), Sheela Murthy and the Murthy Law Firm sent an urgent request for relief to Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to John Morton, the Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and to January Contreras, CIS Ombudsman.
The urgent request (the “Murthy Letter”) was transmitted on February 3, 2011, in part based on the Murthy Law Firm having received over 400 signed petitions via the TANA WebSite from students requesting our help and guidance to put forth their concerns to the U.S. government. The following summarizes the five-page Murthy Letter.
1. ICE has the legal responsibility, as well as substantial financial resources and vast, ever-growing human resources, to research and investigate the legitimacy of U.S. colleges and universities before authorizing them to enroll international students into the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). ICE must accept responsibility for not adequately investigating TVU before enrolling TVU in SEVP and granting it access to enroll international students.
2. The U.S. legal system and rule of law require ICE and our government to be fair and consistent in the treatment of students who are in similar circumstances. Some of the students were informed that they could attempt to change to other colleges or universities within the United States. Others’ passports were held and were informed that they must depart the United States at the earliest. Still others were issued Notices to Appear (NTAs) with the goal of removing (deporting) them from the United States. Many of those students who were issued NTAs were subject to having to wear ankle bracelets to monitor their movements.
3. ICE had issued a factsheet back in 2007 on its policy and procedures when a school or university is de-certified from SEVP. According to this factsheet, the F-1 student can transfer to another SEVP certified school. The factsheet assures students that SEVP will exercise the full authority of the U.S. government to protect the student and institute sanctions against the school that violates the laws. This protection and facilitation of school transfer has not occurred to date.
4. The Murthy Letter urges DHS/ICE and the Ombudsman to grant of a 60-day grace period for the TVU students. This grace period would allow those students who were innocent victims to obtain I-20s to transfer to other schools or universities in F-1 status, or change to another valid nonimmigrant status (like F-2 or H-4 or L-2) or to depart the United States while remaining eligible to reenter with proper approvals at a future time. This 60-day timeframe is similar to the time granted when a student completes his/her education and is given time to depart the United States or change to another status.
The Murthy Letter is summarized in the following excerpt:
While the particulars of each international student’s case may vary, it is clear that a lack of standard procedures, and a failure to follow the procedures which are in place, is leading … to disparate treatment of similarly situated individuals, … tarnishing the fine name and reputation of our system of fairness and the rule of law that we uphold and value so dearly, and wasting valuable government resources. In this letter, we outline our concerns and respectfully urge consideration of a grace period consistent with ICE’s own guidance and regulations.
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