Palantir Admits to Helping ICE Deport Immigrants While Trying to Prove It Doesn’t

Yet more on Palantir:

Surveillance company Palantir has revealed more details about how it contributes to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation operations in a clumsy attempt to prove that it does no such thing.

On Monday, Amnesty International released a briefing laying out how Palantir’s failure to “conduct human rights due diligence” contributed to human rights abuses by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against migrants and asylum-seekers. The briefing followed a letter sent by Amnesty to Palantir earlier in the month that asked the company to clarify its role in aiding ICE’s operations and if it has plans to mitigate harms caused by the agencies that Palantir’s technology empowers.

“Palantir touts its ethical commitments, saying it will never work with regimes that abuse human rights abroad,” said Michael Kleinman, Director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative. “This is deeply ironic, given the company’s willingness stateside to work directly with ICE, which has used its technology to execute harmful policies that target migrants and asylum-seekers.”

Palantir responded to Amnesty International with a letter of its own—a master class in hair-splitting that hit familiar points, used old arguments that have been dismissed, and accidentally admitted Palantir’s technology is used for deportations.

For years, Palantir has been quick to volunteer that it has no contracts with Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), an ICE subdivision that “identifies and apprehends removable aliens, detains these individuals when necessary and removes illegal aliens from the United States” as its primary mission. Instead, Palantir enters contracts with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) subdivision of ICE. This subdivision, Palantir maintains, uses the surveillance company’s technology primarily for the purpose of “combating transnational crime such as money laundering, transnational gang activity, child exploitation, human smuggling, terrorist threats” and criminal activity in general.

While this may be true, the letter goes on to explain that HSI in fact conducts “workplace law enforcement” using Palantir’s technology. This enforcement includes compliance investigations and audits “confirming employer completion of I-9 forms documenting the legal status of its employees.” In other words, Palantir’s services are instrumental in ICE’s activities identifying undocumented people for detainment and deportation, even if, as it claims, it does not work with ERO directly.

As Palantir puts it: “…to be clear: Palantir’s software is not used as part of any deportation activities conducted by ERO as a consequence of worksite operations involving HSI.”

Even this admission, which tracks with Palantir CEO Alex Karp’s previous comments at Davos, does not describe the full scope of how Palantir contributes to ICE’s deportation operations. It has been clear since 2017 that the case management software Palantir provided to HSI has been widely available to ICE agents, including ERO officials, and deemed “mission critical” to the agency as a whole.

“HSI and ERO personnel use the information in ICM [Investigative Case Management system] to document and inform their criminal investigative activities and to support the criminal prosecutions arising from those investigations,” a 2016 Homeland Security disclosure reported on by The Intercept states. “ERO also uses ICM data to inform its civil cases.”

For years, HSI head Derek Benner has made targeting “illegal employment” a central part of the agency’s mission. In 2018, ICE made nearly ten times as many immigration arrests at workplaces than the previous year because of Benner’s belief that such targeting reduced “the continuum of crime that illegal labor facilitates, from the human smuggling networks that facilitate illegal border crossings to the associated collateral crimes, like identity theft, document and benefit fraud and worker exploitation.”

Under Trump, ICE’s workplace raids have not only quadrupled, but grown even larger as Palantir’s technology has empowered the agency to carry out operations like the series of Mississippi raids that arrested 680 people in one day—an operation confirmed last year to have used Palantir’s technology. Palantir’s technology has also been used to target, detain, and deport unaccompanied children and their families.

It is hard to understand why Palantir has continued to pretend that it doesn’t power deportation operations even in the face of a mountain of evidence, and even when it admits that HSI’s operations are part of the deportation pipeline. It may make more sense, however, in light of its S-1 filing documents, which admit that negative media coverage is a significant investment risk factor.

The hits are unlikely to stop coming, as a recent NYMag report suggests Palantir’s core value proposition—”a crystal ball you gaze into for answers”—may be a wild exaggeration using “smoke and mirrors” to obtain juicy government contracts and a dazzling $22 billion valuation ahead of its September 30 direct listing on the stock market.

As the company becomes public, the scrutiny and resistance it will face is likely to reveal a company that has branded itself as indispensable to the defense of liberalism, but in reality is busy pursuing a techno-nationalist project well-versed in the profitable art of constructing borders and policing them—and of terrorizing non-white migrants, asylum-seekers, foreigners, and citizens on either side of them.

Palantir did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.

Source: Palantir Admits to Helping ICE Deport Immigrants While Trying to Prove It Doesn’t

Big Data has allowed ICE to dramatically expand its deportation efforts.

Of note (Palantir hired former Canadian Ambassador to Washington to lead its Canadian operations):

A New Mexico man gets a call from federal child welfare officials. His teenage brother has arrived alone at the border after traveling 2,000 miles to escape a violent uncle in Guatemala. The officials ask him to take custody of the boy. He hesitates; he is himself undocumented. The officials say not to worry. He agrees and gives the officials his information. Seven months later, ICE agents arrest him at his house and start deportation proceedings.

A family in suburban Maryland gets a knock at their door. A child opens it. ICE agents enter and take away a man as his children watch. In the decades that he lived in this country as an unauthorized immigrant, the man never had a run-in with law enforcement. No, the agents explain as they walk him to their car: They found him because of the information he gave the Maryland DMV when he got a driver’s license.

For the past decade, ICE often found its targets in the interior of the U.S. by analyzing booking fingerprints from state and local jails. But the New Mexico and Maryland stories demonstrate a new trend: Increasingly, ICE is tapping much deeper wells of data to identify people for deportation. That’s possible in large part due to Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley start-up poised to go public Sept. 29 in the biggest tech stock listing since Uber. Palantir’s case management software, data analysis and visualization software, and mobile app are the final layer of ICE’s vast surveillance and data sharing network.

I have worked in technology policy for more than a decade. In most meetings, I am the only Latino in the room. I’m almost always the only Latinx immigrant. Much of my work focuses on how surveillance affects immigrants and people of color. Yet, even for me, it is hard to see the technology behind ICE’s brutality. Palantir’s public offering forces us to reckon with that dinfrastructure. As authorities separated thousands of children from their parents, used reunification interviews to track down and deport children’s relatives, and warehoused immigrants in fetid facilities where six children died in less than a year, they also consolidated a powerful and dangerous domestic surveillance dragnet.

For a long time, mass deportations were a small-data affair, driven by tips, one-off investigations, or animus-driven hunches. But beginning under George W. Bush, and expanding under Barack Obama, ICE leadership started to reap the benefits of Big Data. The centerpiece of that shift was the “Secure Communities” program, which gathered the fingerprints of arrestees at local and state jails across the nation and compared them with immigration records. That program quickly became a major driver for interior deportations. But ICE wanted more data. The agency had long tapped into driver address records through law enforcement networks. Eyeing the breadth of DMV databases, agents began to ask state officials to run face recognition searches on driver photos against the photos of undocumented people. In Utah, for example, ICE officers requested hundreds of face searches starting in late 2015. Many immigrants avoid contact with any government agency, even the DMV, but they can’t go without heat, electricity, or water; ICE aimed to find them, too. So, that same year, ICE paid for access to a private database that includes the addresses of customers from 80 national and regional electric, cable, gas, and telephone companies.

Amid this bonanza, at least, the Obama administration still acknowledged red lines. Some data were too invasive, some uses too immoral. Under Donald Trump, these limits fell away.

In 2017, breaking with prior practice, ICE started to use data from interviews with scared, detained kids and their relatives to find and arrest more than 500 sponsors who stepped forward to take in the children. At the same time, ICE announced a plan for a social media monitoring program that would use artificial intelligence to automatically flag 10,000 people per month for deportation investigations. (It was scuttled only when computer scientists helpfully indicated that the proposed system was impossible.) The next year, ICE secured access to 5 billion license plate scans from public parking lots and roadways, a hoard that tracks the drives of 60 percent of Americans—an initiative blocked by Department of Homeland Security leadership four years earlier. In August, the agency cut a deal with Clearview AI, whose technology identifies people by comparing their faces not to millions of driver photos, but to 3 billion images from social media and other sites. This is a new era of immigrant surveillance: ICE has transformed from an agency that tracks some people sometimes to an agency that can track anyone at any time.

This is where Palantir’s work for ICE comes into focus. A panoply of companies collect the data.
Palantir connects the dots. The firm helps agents access different databases, build profiles from disparate sources, from commercial data brokers to driver’s license records, and see how targets interrelate to each other. The company’s software appears to be part of the agency’s largest and most aggressive enforcement actions.

Indeed, the plan for the 2017 operation that first targeted the sponsors of unaccompanied immigrant kids, obtained by the immigrant rights group Mijente, reveals a complex web of interlocking agencies, including Health and Human Services, Customs and Border Protection, and two branches of ICE. To track the moving pieces, the paper repeatedly tells officials to enter data into “ICM,” ICE’s custom-built Investigative Case Management software. Who wrote that code? Palantir.

In its recent 310-page securities filing, Palantir makes no express mention of ICE, immigrants, deportations, or the controversy that its work for ICE has generated. Instead, in his letter to investors, CEO Alex Karp repeatedly touts Palantir’s commitment to the military and the intelligence community: “Our software is used to target terrorists and to keep soldiers safe,” he writes. When criticized, Karp has described Palantir’s work for ICE as “limited,” “a de minimis part of our work”—strange things for American contractor to say about its secondlargest U.S. government client.

There is another way to read Palantir’s silence: Its leadership has decided that the cost of its work for ICE is de minimis, that in the eyes of its clients and the investing public it simply does not matter. As a Latino and an immigrant, I worry that on this point they will be right.

Source: Big Data has allowed ICE to dramatically expand its deportation efforts.

How Netflix’s Immigration Nation shows the true horror of Ice agents

One of the better articles on the Netflix series, a must see:

The initial main draw of Immigration Nation, the six-part documentary series on immigration enforcement under Trump released on Netflix this month, was that US authorities did not want you to see it. After viewing a final cut, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), which had allowed the film-makers, Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz, to embed with agents for over two years, attempted to intimidate the production team into delaying the release. The agency threatened Clusiau and Schwarz with lawsuits, according to a New York Times report, and to use the “full weight” of the federal government to block publication of certain Ice scenes usually invisible to the American public.

It didn’t work, and watching the six-hour series, it is clear why the agency did not want the footage to become public. Immigration Nation, more than any other documentary of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, allows Ice agents and officials to explain their perspective. And thus more than any other documentary, Immigration Nation reveals how a government agency upholds and perpetuates evil. Two-plus years of Cops-style embedment doesn’t glorify Ice agents, but instead reveals the agency to be populated by, in some cases, callous people who gloat over arrests; more often, affable people fulfilling their small part of the contract as directed, with the compartmentalization it requires.

ICE: Foreign Students Must Leave The U.S. If Their Colleges Go Online-Only This Fall

Yet another Canadian advantage, short-lived should Trump be defeated:

Foreign students attending U.S. colleges that will operate entirely online this fall semester cannot remain in the country to do so, according to new regulations released Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As college students across the United States and around the world contemplate what their upcoming semester might look like, the federal guidance limits options for international students and leaves them with an uncomfortable choice: attend in-person classes during a pandemic or take them online from another country.

And for students enrolled in schools that have already announced plans to operate fully online, there is no choice. Under the new rules, the State Department will not issue them visas, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not allow them to enter the country.

“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” read a release from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program. “If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

The agency said students already in the country and faced with a fully online course of study may take alternative measures to maintain their nonimmigrant status, “such as a reduced course load or appropriate medical leave.”

The rule applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visas, which allow nonimmigrant students to pursue academic and vocational coursework, respectively.

More than 1 million of the country’s higher education students come from overseas, according to the nonprofit Institute of International Education.

Typically, foreign students are limited in how many online courses they can take and are required to do the majority of their learning in the classroom, according to immigration lawyer Fiona McEntee. Once the pandemic struck, students were given flexibility to take more online classes — but only for the spring and summer semesters.

“It’s an unprecedented public health crisis, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the allowances that they made to continue, especially given the fact that we clearly, quite clearly do not have a handle on the pandemic here right now, unlike other countries that have,” McEntee said. “This makes no sense.”

McEntee said the decision is especially puzzling given the value of foreign students, which is quantifiable economically.

According to an economic analysis by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $41 billion and supported 458,290 jobs during the 2018-2019 academic year.

McEntee added that losing foreign students is a huge blow to university budgets, something that will impact domestic students as well. Similarly, the decision to attend classes in person impacts all students present.

“If students can study online successfully from an academic point of view, why are we forcing them to come into a situation where they could put their health at risk and also the health of their classmates at risk?” she asked.

Students attending schools operating as usual will remain bound by existing federal regulations that permit them to take a maximum of one class or three credit hours online.

Students attending schools implementing a hybrid model can take more online classes or credits, though their school must certify “that the program is not entirely online, that the student is not taking an entirely online course load this semester, and that the student is taking the minimum number of online classes required to make normal progress in their degree program.”

The announcement comes as higher education institutions are releasing frameworks for reopening in the fall semester. Schools are preparing to offer in-person instruction, online classes or a mix of both.

Eight percent of colleges are planning to operate online, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is tracking the reopening plans of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges. Sixty percent are planning for in-person instruction, and 23% are proposing a hybrid model, with a combined 8.5% undecided or considering a range of scenarios.

Harvard University is one of the latest institutions to unveil its plans, announcing on Monday that all undergraduate and graduate course instruction for the academic year will be held online. Nevertheless, the university plans to bring 40% of undergraduates, including all freshmen, onto campus.

Harvard President Larry Bacow said in a statement emailed to NPR that the ICE policy is “a blunt, one-size-fits-all approach to a complex problem.”

“We must do all that we can to ensure that our students can continue their studies without fear of being forced to leave the country mid-way through the year, disrupting their academic progress and undermining the commitments—and sacrifices—that many of them have made to advance their education,” the statement said.

School reopening plans may be subject to change because of the evolving nature of the pandemic, especially with daily case totals continuing to break records in parts of the country.

In acknowledgment, the agency instructs schools to update their information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System within 10 days of making the switch to online-only classes.

Immigration lawyer McEntee, a former international student herself, said leaving for school can be challenging enough, not to mention during a pandemic and in a landscape of near-constant immigration restrictions. She called the new rule, both in substance and timing, “not right.”

“This is not the America that I think foreign students come to live in,” she said.

The American Council on Education, a higher education lobbying group, also condemned the rule change in a statement issued Monday afternoon. ACE President Ted Mitchell said the guidance “provides confusion and complexity rather than certainty and clarity” and called on ICE to rethink its position.

“At a time when institutions are doing everything they can to help reopen our country, we need flexibility, not a big step in the wrong direction,” he wrote. “ICE should allow any international student with a valid visa to continue their education regardless of whether a student is receiving his or her education online, in person, or through a combination of both, whether in the United States or in their home country, during this unprecedented global health crisis.”

Source: ICE: Foreign Students Must Leave The U.S. If Their Colleges Go Online-Only This Fall

ACLU Sues ICE Over Its Deliberately-Broken Immigrant ‘Risk Assessment’ Software

Good for the ACLU for launching a lawsuit and the research and study behind it:

from the can’t-really-call-it-an-‘option’-if-there-are-no-alternatives dept

A couple of years ago, a Reuters investigation uncovered another revamp of immigration policies under President Trump. ICE has a Risk Classification Assessment Tool that decides whether or not arrested immigrants can be released on bail or their own recognizance. The algorithm had apparently undergone a radical transformation under the new administration, drastically decreasing the number of detainees who could be granted release. The software now recommends detention in almost every case, no matter what mitigating factors are fed to the assessment tool.

ICE is now being sued for running software that declares nearly 100% of detained immigrants too risky to be released pending hearings. The ACLU’s lawsuit [PDF] opens with some disturbing stats that show how ICE has rigged the system to keep as many people detained as possible.

According to data obtained by the New York Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act, from 2013 to June 2017, approximately 47% of those deemed to be low risk by the government were granted release. From June 2017 to September 2019, that figure plummeted to 3%. This dramatic drop in the release rate comes at a time when exponentially more people are being arrested in the New York City area and immigration officials have expanded arrests of those not convicted of criminal offenses. The federal government’s sweeping detention dragnet means that people who pose no flight or safety risk are being jailed as a matter of course—in an unlawful trend that is getting worse.

Despite there being plenty of evidence that immigrants commit fewer criminal acts than natural-born citizens, the administration adopted a “No-Release Policy.” That led directly to ICE tinkering with its software — one that was supposed to assess risk factors when making detention determinations. ICE may as well just skip this step in the process since it’s only going to give ICE (and the administration) the answer it wants: detention without bond. ICE agents can ask for a second opinion on detention from a supervisor, but the documents obtained by the ACLU show supervisors depart from detention recommendations less than 1% of the time.

The negative effects of this indefinite detention are real. The lawsuit points out zero-risk detainees can see their lives destroyed before they’re allowed anything that resembles due process.

Once denied release under the new policy, people remain unnecessarily incarcerated in local jails for weeks or even months before they have a meaningful opportunity to seek release in a hearing before an Immigration Judge. While waiting for those hearings, those detained suffer under harsh conditions of confinement akin to criminal incarceration. While incarcerated, they are separated from families, friends, and communities, and they risk losing their children, their jobs, and their homes. Because of inadequate medical care and conditions in the jails, unmet medical and mental-health needs often lead to serious and at times irreversible consequences.

When they do finally get to see a judge, nearly 40% of them are released on bond. ICE treats nearly 100% of detained immigrants as dangerous. Judges — judges employed by the DOJ and appointed by the Attorney General — clearly don’t agree with the agency’s rigged assessment system.

There will always be those who say, “Well, don’t break the law.” These aren’t criminal proceedings. These are civil proceedings where the detained are tossed into criminal facilities until they’re able to see a judge. This steady stripping of options began under the Obama administration but accelerated under Trump and his no-release policy.

ICE began to alter its custody determinations process in 2015, modifying its risk-assessment tool so that it could no longer recommend individuals be given the opportunity for release on bond. In mid-2017, ICE then removed the tool’s ability to recommend release on recognizance. As a result, the assessment tool—on which ICE offices across the country rely— can only make one substantive recommendation: detention without bond.

The ACLU is hoping to have a class action lawsuit certified that would allow it to hold ICE responsible for violating rights en masse, including the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. Since ICE is no longer pretending to be targeting the “worst of the worst,” the agency and its deliberately-broken risk assessment tool are locking up immigrants who have lived here for an average of sixteen years — people who’ve added to their communities, held down jobs, and raised families. These are the people targeted by ICE and it is ensuring that it is these people who are thrown into prisons and jails until their hearings, tearing apart their lives and families while denying them the rights extended to them by our Constitution.

Source: ACLU Sues ICE Over Its Deliberately-Broken Immigrant ‘Risk Assessment’ Software

ICE now uses cellphone location data to help arrest immigrants

Reminder of the risks of location tracking (convenience versus privacy). Wonder whether CBSA is doing the same:

Companies that sell your cellphone location data to marketers are also selling that information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government body known for detaining children in cages. According to a new report by the Wall Street Journal, ICE and its affiliated organizations at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have been using location information for “millions” of cellphones bought from marketers to track down and arrest undocumented immigrants at the US-Mexico border.

The effort seems to be massive and legal. And as WSJ points out, “The federal government’s use of such data for law enforcement purposes hasn’t previously been reported.”

Experts told the Journal that these are the “largest known troves of bulk data being deployed by law enforcement in the US.” Venntel, a company that licenses location data and is affiliated with the mobile ad company Gravy Analytics, has received $250,000 in contracts in the past few years from DHS, which operates ICE. Public records show that Venntel has also received a contract from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

“This shows the overlap of immigrant rights and data privacy rights,” Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Recode. “Our society has failed to protect consumers from companies that harvest and monetize their personal information, including their sensitive location data. Now, reportedly, the federal government has purchased access to that data, and is using it to locate and deport immigrants.”

He added, “This is one more reason why we need strong consumer data privacy laws.”

Homeland Security officials wouldn’t tell the WSJ exactly how it leverages location data. It’s possible that the agency can use the information to see where people are crossing the border — for instance, in locations outside of regulated entry ports — and plan detention efforts accordingly. Documents reviewed by the Journal “make oblique references to such data being used to track, among other things, tunnels along the border.” The use of data does not sound dissimilar to certain marketing strategies. Advertisers can use anonymized geolocation data from cellphones to target people when they visit, say, a McDonald’s location.

As Recode has previously reported, DHS has stated that its organizations acquire “commercially available location data” from “third-party data providers” to “detect the presence of individuals in areas between Ports of Entry where such a presence is indicative of potential illicit or illegal activity.”

A 2018 Supreme Court case determined that cellphone location data is protected and that law enforcement needs warrants to collect it. As the Journal reports, however:

The federal government has essentially found a workaround by purchasing location data used by marketing firms rather than going to court on a case-by-case basis. Because location data is available through numerous commercial ad exchanges, government lawyers have approved the programs and concluded that the Carpenter ruling doesn’t apply.

The data they’re using doesn’t include personally identifiable information like a user’s name, but rather an anonymized alphanumeric ID. Still, as a New York Times investigation into this type of data showed late last year, it’s pretty easy to figure out who someone is based solely on their location. If a person spends every night at a certain location and working hours on weekdays at another location, for example, it’s relatively straightforward to determine where that person lives and works. Using those two bits of information, only minor internet sleuthing is necessary to figure out who that person is, not to mention loads of other info about them.

“Even though they say it’s anonymous, when compiling different datasets together it gives you a very detailed picture of who you are, better than even you have,” Dragana Kaurin, a research fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, told Recode.

“This data can be used to discriminate against people by race, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation or class,” she added, giving the example of how you could figure out someone is, say, Muslim based on their shopping at Halal markets or visiting mosques.

And as we’ve said before, free software like the weather or gaming app on your phone is never free. It’s common for free software and services — anything from antivirus software to your weather or gaming app — to sell your personal information, including your location, to data brokers that can then sell it to other entities and even law enforcement. In other words, free software can come at a significant cost to your privacy. The terms of the exchange are embedded deep in the privacy policies we never read.

This is no longer a matter of creepy ads following you around the internet. It could be law enforcement, too.

Source: ICE now uses cellphone location data to help arrest immigrants

How McKinsey Helped the Trump Administration Carry Out Its Immigration Policies

Yet another illustration of McKinsey’s ethnical and moral blindspots (not as egregious as holding their conference in Xinjiang nor Huawei’s role in surveillance tech Huawei founder defends ‘seamless surveillance’ technology, dismisses criticism it enables human-rights abuses):

Just days after he took office in 2017, President Trump set out to make good on his campaign pledge to halt illegal immigration. In a pair of executive orders, he ordered “all legally available resources” to be shifted to border detention facilities, and called for hiring 10,000 new immigration officers.

The logistical challenges were daunting, but as luck would have it, Immigration and Customs Enforcement already had a partner on its payroll: McKinsey & Company, an international consulting firm brought on under the Obama administration to help engineer an “organizational transformation” in the ICE division charged with deporting migrants who are in the United States unlawfully.

ICE quickly redirected McKinsey toward helping the agency figure out how to execute the White House’s clampdown on illegal immigration.

But the money-saving recommendations the consultants came up with made some career ICE workers uncomfortable. They proposed cuts in spending on food for migrants, as well as on medical care and supervision of detainees, according to interviews with people who worked on the project for both ICE and McKinsey and 1,500 pages of documents obtained from the agency after ProPublica filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Principles of Trump University Now Apply to Our Immigration Policy

Speaks for itself:

Let’s say you’re a highly motivated immigrant kid from India who comes (legally) to Michigan. You want to study, say, computer science. So you run into another student from India who tells you about this place called the University of Farmington, where you can get your degree. The cost is relatively cheap as American colleges go: $12,000 a year, plus fees. This sounds great, you think.

Then, one day, after you’ve paid your money, the gang from ICE shows up, busts you for immigration violations, keeps all the money you paid for your classes, and ships you back to India. Or, they offer you a chance to pitch this university to other people in your same situation, people who get deported later. Then you get busted for fraud and sent to jail. But at least you’re still in the United States for a while, so there’s that.

Welcome to United States immigration policy in 2019. From the Detroit Free Press:

“A total of about 250 students have now been arrested since January on immigration violations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of a sting operation by federal agents … The students had arrived legally in the U.S. on student visas, but since the University of Farmington was later revealed to be a creation of federal agents, they lost their immigration status after it was shut down in January. The school was … staffed with undercover agents posing as university officials. Out of the approximately 250 students arrested on administrative charges, “nearly 80% were granted voluntary departure and departed the United States,” the Detroit office of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) told the Free Press in a statement Tuesday.”

Plot twist No. 1 coming.

“ICE said in March that 161 students had been arrested, which has now increased to about 250. Meanwhile, seven of the eight recruiters who were criminally charged for trying to recruit students have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced in Detroit, including Prem Rampeesa, 27, last week. The remaining one is to be sentenced in January. Rampeesa was sentenced Nov, 19 to one year in prison by Judge Gershwin Drain of U.S. District Court in Detroit. With time already served of 295 days, he should be out in about two to three months, and will then be deported to India, said his attorney Wanda Cal. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbor aliens for profit. …

Rampeesa arrived in the U.S. legally a few years ago on a student visa and earned in 2016 a master’s degree in computer science at Northwestern Polytechnic University. But the university later lost its accreditation, which put his immigration status in jeopardy. He had spent $40,000 in tuition and fees for his studies at the university.

“He was desperate to find a way to stay in the United States,” Rampeesa’s attorney, Cal, wrote in his sentencing memo. He wanted to get a Ph.D. in computer science, she said. Rampeesa then met Sama, who recruited him to attend the University of Farmington and told him he could get tuition credits if he recruited other students, Cal said. Sama and Rampeesa were working with people they thought were university officials, but were actually undercover agents for the Department of Homeland Security.”

First, you convince some students that your university is real so you can bust them. Then you convince other students that they should help you recruit still other students for your university. Then you bust this second group of students and the people you entrapped to entrap them. Lovely.

And, of course, there’s the money, which ended up God knows where. Maybe in the university endowment.

“Emails obtained by the Free Press earlier this year showed how the fake university attracted students to the university… The U.S. “trapped the vulnerable people who just wanted to maintain (legal immigration) status,” Rahul Reddy, a Texas attorney who represented or advised some of the students arrested, told the Free Press this week. “They preyed upon on them.” The fake university is believed to have collected millions of dollars from the unsuspecting students. … “They made a lot of money,” Reddy said of the U.S. government.”

Of course, the prosecutors held the students at their fake university liable for stealing their own money.

“Attorneys for ICE and the Department of Justice maintain that the students should have known it was not a legitimate university because it did not have classes in a physical location. Some CPT programs have classes combined with work programs at companies. “Their true intent could not be clearer,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in a sentencing memo this month for Rampeesa, one of the eight recruiters, of the hundreds of students enrolled. “While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.”

Of course, the whole scam was set up as yet another vehicle to restrict immigration to this country, and to delegitimize programs already in place. In related news, you all are still paying Stephen Miller’s salary.

“Baker wrote that “immigration and visa programs have been hot-button topics in the United States for years and national scrutiny has only been increasing. Fairly or unfairly, Rampeesa’s conduct casts a shadow on the foreign-student visa program in general, and it raises questions as to whether the potential for abuse threatens to outweigh the benefits.” Reddy said, though, that in some cases, students who transferred out from the University of Farmington after realizing they didn’t have classes on-site, were still arrested.”

And thus were the basic principles behind Trump University enshrined in federal law enforcement.

Source: The Principles of Trump University Now Apply to Our Immigration Policy

Harvard paper blasted for seeking immigration agency comment

Silly. Normal journalist practice, even if one does not like the policies of the Trump administration or government agency:

For student and professional journalists alike, it’s a matter of ethical standards: The Harvard Crimson student newspaper, in its coverage of a campus protest against a federal immigration agency, reached out to the agency to ask for comment.

To student activists, the request showed a disregard for students living in the country illegally. Student groups circulated a petition demanding an apology and some, including the Harvard College Democrats, said they would refuse to speak to the publication.

The Crimson said this week it was standing by the decision despite the criticism in the latest example of heightened political sensitivity on college campuses that many say reveals an intolerance for different — often conservative — points of view. On several campuses, invitations to conservative speakers have been rescinded, and debates have raged over how to protect free speech.

At the Sept. 12 rally in Harvard Yard, representatives of several campus organizations called for the abolition of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agency. In its article on the demonstration, the Crimson said the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. That kind of line is typical in news reports to demonstrate that reporters have attempted to get someone’s side of the story but have not yet heard back.

But the 11 student groups behind the petition charged that the effort was tantamount to calling the agency on the students. They wrote that the correspondence with ICE jeopardized students on campus who are living in the country illegally.

“We are extremely disappointed in the cultural insensitivity displayed by The Crimson’s policy to reach out to ICE, a government agency with a long history of surveilling and retaliating against those who speak out against them,” the petition says. “In this political climate, a request for comment is virtually the same as tipping them off, regardless of how they are contacted.”

The groups, including the college Democrats, Act on a Dream and Divest Harvard, called on the student newspaper to apologize and agree not to contact the agency for future stories. As a student publication, they said, the Crimson must prioritize students’ safety.

In a note to readers this week, Crimson leaders Kristine Guillaume and Angela Fu noted the reporters contacted the agency after the protest and did not share the names of anybody in attendance. They also defended the application of journalistic standards.

“At stake here, we believe, is one of the core tenets that defines America’s free and independent press: the right — and prerogative — of reporters to contact any person or organization relevant to a story to seek that entity’s comment and view of what transpired,” they wrote.

A spokesman for the immigration agency, Bryan Cox, said claims that the agency targets protesters for arrest are false and needlessly spread fear.

“Should the Harvard community wish to have a fact-based discussion as to what ICE does and does not do we would be happy to take part in that conversation,” he said.

Campuses across the country have been roiled by protests over controversial speakers and questions about political intolerance — a reflection, some say, of the hardening divide between the left and the right in American discourse. Where some see an effort to shelter students from any objectionable ideas, others see efforts to be more respectful of students’ varied backgrounds experiences.

In one case, at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the student government moved to strip the campus newspaper of funding in 2015 after some students objected to an opinion piece published critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. At Middlebury College in Vermont in 2017, hundreds of students protested a lecture by Charles Murray, a writer who critics say uses pseudoscience to link intelligence and race, forcing the college to move his talk to an undisclosed location from which it was live-streamed.

Some political demonstrations have turned violent, including a 2017 riot at the University of California, Berkeley, over an appearance planned by conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos that was canceled.

Student journalists and their advisers across the country regularly report efforts by students and school administrators to influence their coverage decisions, according to Chris Evans, president of the College Media Association. But he said it is rare to see efforts as blatant as those at Harvard.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with protesting,” Evans said. “The thing that can’t happen is that the student newspaper backs down. Let people debate whether certain voices should be heard. But it’s not the journalist’s job, with some exceptions, to decide what can and cannot be heard.”

Source: Harvard paper blasted for seeking immigration agency comment

British Family Detained By ICE After Unlawfully Entering U.S. From Canada

Bureaucratic ineptitude and cruelty, that may help some understand what those caught on the Southern border are facing:

A British couple and their 3-month-old son are being detained in a federal immigration facility in Pennsylvania after they say they accidentally strayed across the U.S.-Canada border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested the family for unlawfully entering the country while on vacation in British Columbia. The family said that while driving, they swerved down an unmarked road to avoid an animal.

“This is how the scariest experience of our entire lives started,” wrote Eileen Connors, 24, in a sworn statement shared by immigration attorneys with Aldea — The People’s Justice Center, a pro bono legal clinic in Reading, Pa.

The Connors family was taken into federal immigration custody in Washington state on Oct. 3 and slept on what they describe as “a dirty floor” in a border patrol station. Connors said the family was asked about family members in the United States they could be released to, but instead of being freed they were transferred to the Berks Family Residential Center, outside Reading, on Oct. 5.

There, they say treatment worsened. Connors said that the Berks County-run facility was not equipped to care for such a young child and that normal caretaking items — such as a container of formula and teething powder — have been confiscated. At one point, her baby had no clothes while staff washed the clothes he arrived with.

“This facility is frigid,” said Connors. “The staff here first told us they cannot turn on the heat in the building until the end of next month,” even though temperatures are in the 50s at night.

As a result, her son’s health is suffering, she says.

A few days ago, “[he] woke up with his left eye swollen and teary … also his skin is rough and blotchy,” Connor wrote.

In an echo of events at the U.S. southern border, where parents were separated from their children through a “zero tolerance” policy, the family wrote that in response to complaints about conditions, an ICE employee offered to remove their baby.

“If we wanted, we could sign papers to allow him to be separated from us and taken to some other facility,” Connors said. “We were shocked and disgusted.”

Few safeguards

An ICE spokesman confirmed that the family is in custody at the Berks Family Residential Center but denied any mistreatment.

“BFRC provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process. BFRC supports all sanctioned local, state, and federal investigations into the safety and welfare of our residents,” he said in a statement, adding that reports of abuse or inhumane conditions “are unequivocally false.”

In addition to the couple and their son, the Connorses’ extended family, which includes two other young children, was also taken into custody.

As British citizens, the family was entitled to visit the U.S. without a visa.

“They could just come to the United States with a passport,” said attorney Bridget Cambria, who worked on the civil rights complaint that has been filed on behalf of the family with the Department of Homeland Security. “The reason it sounds silly is because it is silly.”

Instead, Eileen and her husband, David, 30, are locked into an immigration process with few safeguards. People in federal immigration custody are not entitled to legal counsel and even the wrongful arrest of U.S. citizens can take weeks to sort out, as they struggle to prove their identities while in detention.

Other foreign tourists have also found themselves in dire straights. Last June, a French citizen visiting her mother in British Columbia was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol after jogging on the beach near the border of Vancouver and Blaine, Wash. She was held in federal immigration detention for two weeks.

Unlawful border crossings in the north are also on the rise, with 4,316 people apprehended at the Canadian border in 2018, up from 3,027 the previous year.

CBP has not yet responded to questions about why the Connors family was taken into custody.

Attorneys familiar with the case say they hope the family will be released later in the week, based on communication with the British Embassy.

In her statement, Connors said conditions at the facility slowly improved after she was able to speak to someone from the British Embassy on Oct. 8. Still, she wrote that the experience will haunt them.

“We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights, and lied to,” she said. “We will be traumatized for the rest of our lives.”

Source: British Family Detained By ICE After Unlawfully Entering U.S. From Canada