A lawsuit submitted from Columbia University by an personnel who says she was fired for refusing to lie to the US Division of Homeland Safety has particularly considerable implications for its international-college student program’s future. If the allegations are legitimate, Columbia will probable get rid of the skill to enroll new overseas pupils for at the very least a year.
How lots of other schools have interaction in this type of illegal activity is mysterious, but DHS really should choose a closer search at the more than 15,000 campuses it has licensed to enroll foreign college students to be certain this is not going on elsewhere.
As The Post initially reported, a Columbia University Designated School Formal (or DSO, a school’s DHS liaison) claims she was directed to “process immigration files on behalf of a group of probable pupils from South Africa with no the vital documentation, like proof of funding and complete-time engagement in a recommended application, as needed by federal restrictions.”
DSO Yocasta Brens alleges that Stephanie J. Rowley, Columbia’s provost, dean and vice president for academic affairs, “accused Brens of currently being too ‘inflexible’ in the software of federal restrictions.” Brens states she and her staff members “were commonly asked to ‘bend’ the principles in get to keep the enrollment of international college students at a large level” and directed to “certify that selected intercontinental learners had been enrolled full-time when they were being, in actuality, not complete-time students” and “extend students’ immigration files when they did not qualify based mostly on federal needs.”
As a leading official with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Trump administration who labored to deal with fraud within just our nation’s overseas-college student method, I can assure you that the agency’s regulation-enforcement officers obtain these allegations pretty troubling. ICE’s Pupil and Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) certifies colleges to enroll overseas college students and makes certain they are entering exact information into the University student and Exchange Visitor Information and facts Method, a databases made in the wake of the terrorist assaults of Sept. 11, 2001. SEVIS exists specifically mainly because DHS demands to know if a international nationwide fails to sustain entire-time enrollment and just take action ahead of a danger develops. Colleges that fail to adhere to these nationwide-safety-centered restrictions generate a considerable risk to our country and can have their certification to enroll overseas students withdrawn.
Below the regulation, “SEVP certification of a university or faculty process . . . will be withdrawn . . . if the faculty or school method is determined to no more time be entitled to certification for any valid and substantive reason” (emphasis extra). The phrase “any legitimate and substantive reason” is wide sufficient to include what is alleged to have taken put at Columbia, but the regulation involves a listing of illustrations that represent a rationale for withdrawal, such as a failure to preserve data the place the “student is not pursuing a total system of study” and issuance of Variety I-20 — the central doc for all foreign college students — “to aliens who will not be enrolled in or carry comprehensive courses of research.” There’s also a capture-all cause SEVP will withdraw certification: “Conduct on the portion of a DSO that does not comply with the polices.”
SEVP could quickly hand Columbia a Observe of Intent to Withdraw. The regulation points out: “SEVP will initiate an out-of-cycle critique and provide the college with an NOIW if SEVP has data that a school or university process may no more time be entitled to SEVP certification prior to the faculty staying owing for its two-calendar year recertification” (emphasis included).
DHS depends greatly on DSOs to guarantee facts on overseas students are properly reported. This data involves, for illustration, academic records, call data, no matter if the college student is maintaining a comprehensive study course of analyze and any work linked to the controversial Optional Functional Schooling program. These are significant roles regulation created SEVP cannot overlook what is alleged to have happened without the need of undermining nationwide security and the legitimacy of the international-scholar software as a total. If this is going on at an Ivy League campus, it is difficult not to imagine it going on at far more obscure faculties.
SEVP ought to straight away start an investigation of Columbia’s entire international-college student system. ICE’s particular brokers will need to have to audit all SEVIS info Columbia provided to decide the extent of the alleged fraud.
It is troubling these allegations only came to light-weight in a whistleblower’s lawsuit. ICE should take into consideration a nationwide audit of other faculties to figure out the degree of compliance with these vital regulations. Congress would be wise to abide by this closely offered the significant countrywide-stability implications. More assessment on the situation is available below.
Suspicious activity can be claimed to ICE through the on-line idea variety or by contacting 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. The agency desires to listen to from everyone who has info that could support in uncovering unlawful action, whether it is fraud in just a school’s foreign-pupil system, work fraud involving international college students or any other suspicious exercise involving immigration or customs issues.
Jon Feere, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief of personnel under the Trump administration, is the director of investigations at the Middle for Immigration Studies.