In January 2016, the University of Farmington was born. By 2018, more than 600 students had enrolled, paid tuition, and matriculated. Come January 2019, the entire student body received formal correspondence from the college: The school was not actually a school at all.
It was a ruse, conceived by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and executed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), allegedly to crack down on “visa fraud.” Richly ironic is that the fraudulent operations were set up and maintained by the government itself, which duped immigrants into applying for student visas that would then be revoked when the curtain came up on the scheme. In the same letter, the students—who had just found out they were not, in fact, real students—were given one last instruction. They would need to leave the country immediately, or face arrest and deportation.
“I was in complete shock. I didn’t understand what to do,” says Suraj, whose name has been changed to protect his anonymity. He moved to the U.S. in 2015 to attend Northwestern Polytechnic University, where he earned a degree and nabbed a job as an IT business consultant. With his student visa set to expire, he decided to apply for a master’s program, which is when he found Farmington, located in southeast Michigan near where he lived at the time.