ICE set up a fake university to capture illegal immigrants. It worked really, really well. Now they’re being sued for it.

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NEWARK, N.J. – The U.S. government has reached a potential settlement with hundreds of foreign nationals who enrolled at the University of Northern New Jersey, a fake university created as part of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting to crack down on student visa fraud.

Court documents detailed the potential settlement, which will require the approval of the presiding judge. The settlement would settle a class-action lawsuit filed by migrants who say they unknowingly enrolled at the sham university.

On April 5, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced criminal charges against 21 defendants in a “pay to stay” scheme. The charging documents stated:

“(The defendants) conspired with more than 1,000 foreign nationals to fraudulently maintain student visas and obtain foreign worker visas. (The college was) not staffed with instructors or educators, had no curriculum, and conducted no actual classes or education activities.

“(The college) operated solely as a storefront location with small offices staffed by federal agents posing as school administrators.”

At the time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that the defendants enabled approximately 1,076 individuals who had previously entered the United States on F1 nonimmigrant visas to attend other Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) schools and who were “willing participants” in the scheme to “enroll” in UNNJ in order to fraudulently maintain F1 status.

Furthermore, prosecutors claimed defendants used the fake university to obtain employment authorizations and work visas “for hundreds of their clients.”

Twenty-one brokers, recruiters, and employers from across the United States who allegedly conspired with more than 1,000 foreign nationals to fraudulently maintain student visas and obtain foreign worker visas through a “pay to stay” New Jersey college were arrested by federal agents, according to an announcement by New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman on April 5, 2016.

The foreign nationals enrolled at UNNJ as “students” were not criminally charged, but the government terminated their visa statuses in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the federal database used to maintain information about international students, leaving them without valid student visas.

On November 18, 2018, a group of students filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the government. The suit challenged the government’s claim that they participated in visa fraud.

In the suit, the students argued that they had enrolled in the UNNJ thinking that it was a bona fide university, and that they had not realized that it was a front established by ICE.

The suit alleges the U.S. government acted improperly by assuming all foreign students who enrolled in UNNJ has knowingly took part in the visa fraud. By making the broad assumption, the suit alleged that the government failed to provide due process to the students.

Further, the suit claims the broad assumption made by government prosecutors violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with the law.”

Additionally, the students claimed in court that the termination of the 1,076 students’ F1 status based on a blanket determination of fraud violated the APA and was arbitrary and capricious.

A lower court initially dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit revived the case in 2019 in an opinion that pointed to the lengths the government went to make the fake university look realistic.

The judges wrote in a footnote that “the only thing lacking appears to be reference to UNNJ’s men’s or women’s basketball team in the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s basketball tournament,” and to the government’s own shifting position as to whether the UNNJ “students” were willing participants in the fraud or victims of it.

Under the proposed settlement, the government would pay $450,000 in legal fees and not admit to any wrongdoing under the proposed deal.

Students who saw their visas overturned after the sting was revealed may have their removal proceedings canceled by the Department of Homeland Security and be allowed to apply for new visas, or seek reinstatement to attend another school if the deal is approved.

Elizabeth Montano, attorney for the New Jersey students, said the enrollees had no idea the visas they obtained were fraudulent. Students who visited the alleged school’s Cranford office spoke with agents disguised as administrators and secretaries.

Montano told the New Jersey Monitor:

“It was very hard for them to discover it was fake because the government went to great lengths to make it seem like an institution.

“It all boils down to, the government thinks what they’re doing is fine — and we don’t agree with them — but they believe they have the power to keep doing this. It’s awful. The settlement, at least, goes to show the government can’t get away with doing this.”

A court hearing is scheduled for May 2 at the U.S. District Court in Newark.

ICE set up a fake university to capture illegal immigrants.  It worked really, really well.  Now they're being sued for it.

State University of New York at Brockport invites cop killer to speak, calling him a ‘political prisoner’

March 16, 2022

 

BROCKPORT, NY – A man who served nearly 50 years in prison in connection with the killing of two New York City police officers has been invited to speak at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport, with the organizers calling him a former ”political prisoner” and “avid educator.”

SUNY Brockport is holding “The History of Black Resistance, U.S. Political Prisoners & Genocide: A Conversation with Jalil Muntaqim” on April 6. The event is described as:

“(An) intellectual conversation on his time with the Black Panthers and serving nearly 50 years as a political prisoner.”

Muntaqim, formerly known as Anthony Bottom, was among a group of Black Liberation Army radicals who ambushed and shot two New York City police officers in the back in 1971, Officers Waverly Jones and Joseph A. Piagentini.

Muntaqim, along with Herman Bell and Albert Washington, were convicted of luring the officers to a housing project in Harlem, N.Y., by placing a fake 911 call. When the officers arrived,  Muntaqim and Wilson snuck up behind the two NYPD officers and shot them in the back. Jones died instantly, a bullet shattering his spine.

Piagentini fell to the ground begging for his life. He pleaded with his killers, telling them he had a wife and young children.  The killers took his service weapon and emptied the bullets into him. Ultimately, he suffered 22 gunshot wounds and died on the way to Harlem Hospital.

Muntaqim and Bell were both convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life. Washington died in prison in 2000. Bell was granted parole in March. Muntaqim was released on parole in 2020 after being denied nine times prior.

The calendar announcement for the SUNY event does not identify Muntaqim as a cop killer. The notice states:

“Join Jalil Muntaqim for an intellectual conversation on his time with the Black Panthers and serving nearly 50 years as a political prisoner.”

The announcement further describes the convicted double-murder as  an educator and influential author:

“Jalil was a teen activist for the NAACP, and joined the Black Panther Party at age 18. On August 28, 1971, he was captured along with Nuh Washington during a midnight shoot-out with San Francisco Police.

“Mr. Muntaqim spent 49 years in prison, where he was an avid educator with individuals confined, co-founded the Jericho Movement, and initiated the International Jericho March on Washington (1998) and We Charge Genocide: International Tribunal to the United Nations (October 2021). Jalil is author of the seminal work, We Are Our Own Liberators.”

The announcement mentions Muntaqim as a member of the Citizens Action Network and People Liberation Program, “as well as a grandfather, mentor to many, and loving human being.”

The event is partially receiving funding from the PED Grant of the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, according to the notice.

There was no mention of Muntaqim’s participation in the ambush and murder of the officers.

The invitation by SUNY has drawn harsh criticism, such as from Republican New York State Assemblyman Josh Jensen of Greece:

“Invite a convicted cop killer on to campus to talk about the struggles of being a political prisoner. That is wrong.

“There is no if, ands, or buts about it, giving Anthony Bottom a platform to speak to anyone is wrong.”

Assemblyman Jensen also asked Brockport President Heidi Macpherson to rescind the invitation. In a statement, he wrote:

“What type of message would we be sending to young college students to call someone who played a role in the assassination of two members of law enforcement a “political prisoner?” What message does it send to criminal justice majors on campus?

“What message does it send to our law enforcement? Allowing for academic freedom and diversity of thought among college students is incredibly important, however, granting this opportunity to a convicted cop killer is wholly misguided.”

Rochester Police Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo called on SUNY to cancel the event:

“He was imprisoned for an act of intentional premeditated murder, not for a political view. His conversation at Brockport will be more of the same, blame everyone and everything in the world except his own actions.

“At a time when Rochester is facing unprecedented levels of violence and loss of life, the last thing we need is another ‘expert’ to further divide our community.”

Tim Dymond, president of the New York State Police Investigators Association, called on the university to cancel the invitation and issue an apology to the families of his victims:

“To refer to a convicted killer who murdered two police officers as a ‘Political Prisoner’ is shocking, abhorrent and an insult to the families of the two slain officers.

“NYSPIA fully supports freedom of speech, and we do not question the right of an individual share their thoughts and opinions. However, we do question why SUNY Brockport would invite a convicted cop killer to campus and refer to him as a ‘political prisoner.’”

SUNY Brockport released a statement defending its decision to allow the cop killer to speak:

“We do not support the violence exhibited in Mr. Muntaqim’s previous crimes, and his presence on campus does not imply endorsement of his views or past actions. However, we believe in freedom of speech.

“SUNY Brockport has routinely held speaking events involving controversial speakers from various backgrounds and viewpoints and will continue to do so.

“These conversations are uncomfortable. They are meant to be. They’re about gaining a new perspective.”

Piagentini’s widow, Diane Piagentini, argued against Muntaqim being awarded parole in October 2018 after his ninth parole hearing ended with a denial. She said at the time:

“Anthony Bottom never ever should be released from prison. My husband and Waverly Jones are not coming home, and Anthony Bottom should never be released…

“He swore at the sentencing he could never be rehabilitated. If he gets out, he will continue to work for his cause.” 

 

 

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