ICE indicates it may reinstate Tri-Valley students'' visas

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Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 6 (PTI) The US Immigration andCustom Enforcement (ICE) has indicated that it is ready toconsider reinstating the immigration status of thoseIndian students, who have lost their student visas due to theclosure of a California-based "sham" university.

"We received a message from ICE today, in which theyindicated that they would consider the possibility ofreinstatement of their (students) visa status through I-539,"Susmita Gongulee Thomas, Consul General, Indian ConsulateSan Francisco, told PTI.

I-539 is the form used by US Citizenship andImmigration Services (USCIS) for visa extension and change ofimmigration status.

When one is out of the visa status for one reason orthe other under a particular law of the US and theindividual is not in criminal violation, USCIS may agreeto give the reinstatement of his or her status under thisform.

Duped by the authorities of the Tri-Valley University,which has now been shut down, hundreds of Indian students,mostly from Andhra Pradesh, faced the threat of being deportedback home after having lost their student visa status.

However, no immediate detail of ICE''s one-liner toIndian Consulate in San Francisco was available.

Thomas hoped that more details and clarification onthis would be available from ICE early next week.

She said all indications are that this is not goingto be a general amnesty and ICE would consider the request forstatus change or visa extension on a case by case basis.

"It seems quite positive that they are willing toconsider at least the possibility of reinstating of some ofthe students," Thomas said.

"I think it will be case by case basis, becauseearlier we had clarified that there is nothing like thegeneral amnesty. It would be case by case, because they feelthat there might be some students who are in criminalviolation of the immigration," she added.

Meanwhile, nearly 150 Tri-Valley students turned up forthe free legal aid camp organised by the Indian Consulate inSan Francisco in association with the South Asian BarAssociation (SABA).

Two immigration lawyers along with one civil and onecriminal lawyer from SABA spend several hours with thesestudents on a one-on-one basis yesterday. .

The lawyers counseled the students that since many of them are in the US for the first time, they are not aware ofhow they can undermine their own rights under the US law andgive away their immunities and privileges if they talkinadvertently and without thinking.

"They (attorneys) have advised us to tell the studentsthat they should not speak to ICE or to the media withoutconsulting an attorney or a lawyer," Thomas said.

She said the choice to speak to them is always there, butthey should be advised about their own safety and theirprivileges and how they should put across their case withoutcompromising their own rights in the matter.

Thomas said so far 18 Tri-Valley Students have beenradio-ankled and no fresh case has been brought to the noticeof the Consulate so far.

Ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signalcontaining location and other information to a receiver.

Thomas said students are anxious that they would be ableto miss out a complete semester and worried they would be outof status and how that would affect their future abilities toget visas and admission in the universities.

"They are worried how they would sustain themselves ifthey are not able to work anymore and this is going to be veryexpensive. They are worried about legal process," said theConsul General.

Acknowledging that it has been a very telling time forthe students, Thomas said effort is being made to provide themlegal status and advice from others who can help them.

She said the meeting with the lawyers was very helpfulto the students and were advised that they should wait tillthe middle of next week before taking any decision.

"Before they think of walking out voluntarily or justgoing out of the State as that could worsen their situationand the note that ICE has promised to give options tostudents, which they might prefer to exercise rather thangoing in for a central confrontation," Thomas said.

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