Visit to Embassy of India in Support of TVU Students03 Mar 2011
Attorney Sheela Murthy attended a meeting at the Embassy of India, Washington D.C., on March 2, 2011. Following is her report on the meeting and discussion.
On March 2, 2011, I was joined by Aron Finkelstein, the Managing Attorney of the Murthy Law Firm, as we traveled to Washington D.C. to represent the interests of the students from Tri-Valley University (TVU) at the Embassy of India. We presented our arguments and concerns on behalf of former TVU students before senior government officials from the DHS and SEVP who were present.
Indian Ambassador to the United States Meera Shankar and the Honorable Arun Kumar Singh, Deputy Chief of Mission for the Indian Embassy, started the meeting by addressing the group of students, the DHS and SEVP officials, and others present, outlining the concerns of the Indian government on behalf of its citizens and former TVU students.
I summarized the situation and pointed out inconsistencies of the U.S. government, for example, in de-certifying TVU on January 18, 2011, and yet apparently approving the transfer of some students after the date of the proposed de-certification. In my opening remarks, I summarized our law firm’s recommendations for ICE and SEVP to consider the 60-day grace period option, modifying the SEVP access termination date, since SEVP did not follow the law and regulations by failing to consider the impact of its sudden actions on TVU’s nonimmigrant students.
Several students then shared their personal stories. The unfortunate plight of the students was moving and the inconsistencies in their treatment; some of them being subject to the issuance of the NTA (start of removal / deportation proceedings), others having to pay $5000 in bond to avoid detention in jail, still others too fearful to contact ICE, some having filed for reinstatement, and a few having obtained approvals.
SEVP Director Lou Ferrell, spoke on behalf of the government. He said he would take the matters discussed to his supervisors to come up with policy guidance to ensure that the USCIS and ICE would be consistent in their treatment of TVU students and provide various options, including approving requests for the reinstatement of students to other universities in F-1 status or to other statuses, such as H1B or H-4. At the Murthy Law Firm, we have received a few approvals for former TVU students who filed for the change of status based on a request for reinstatement.
The TVU issue has been reported extensively by the media in both India and the United States. After the meeting we were interviewed by the representatives from various news media, including a TV crew, who were waiting in front of the Indian Embassy when the meeting concluded. I was asked questions about the meeting and what the expected outcome could be for the former TVU students.
The day was worthwhile for me to attend even though it was at the last minute. I hope that, with our attendance and active participation, we were able to help change some minds and provide additional relief for the benefit of students. Hopefully, we have helped to point out some options to the DHS and SEVP officials present. The impact of the plight of the students, as expressed through their personal stories, should also move these officials into making some policy changes. It was clear that the DHS and SEVP officials who were present realized the importance of this issue to the Government of India. Although the U.S. government did not provide a firm commitment at the meeting, I have hope and faith that it will help to provide much needed support and a more favorable policy for the benefit of these former TVU students. Stay tuned for updates!
As background on the TVU situation, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided TVU and allegedly found irregularities at TVU in its issuance of I-20s for foreign students in F-1 status. In response, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and ICE de-certified TVU and, effective as of January 18, 2011, all students at TVU were considered to no longer be maintaining valid F-1 status. Since many of these TVU students are of Indian origin, the Indian Embassy and the central government in India have been in contact with the U.S. Department of State and with the director of ICE in Washington D.C.
The Murthy Law Firm has been involved with this matter from the beginning to help students and provide support. The Murthy Law Firm sent a letter, dated February 3, 2011, to DHS, ICE, and the Ombudsman on the plight of the TVU students, making some recommendations under existing laws and regulations. In addition, the Murthy Law Firm provided a legal opinion and guidance for the benefit of the Indian Government, to be considered during negotiations and discussions with the U.S. government. Sheela Murthy personally sent a letter on February 16, 2011, to Nirupama Menon Rao, the Honorable Secretary of the Government of India’s Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, India summarizing legal issues from an immigration law perspective for the benefit of the Government of India.