That’s been the prime narrative around the phony university. But I’m not sure how useful it is. For one, I don’t know how to weigh in definitively on the students’ culpability. Warren and Ocasio-Cortez see them as unwitting victims. The indictment
says the students knew that they were participating in a “pay to stay” scheme – that the college motto, accreditation, and the other trappings of a legit institution weren’t there to fool the students but to make them believe they could get away with it.
What we do know is that fabricating a whole college takes work. The Farmington subterfuge began nearly four years earlier, back in 2015. (Yes, as I noted
back when the news first broke, under President Obama.) Is this the best use of limited resources? Administration of the student-visa system is notoriously stretched thin. There is a backlog of institutions waiting to be recertified to enroll foreign students. Actual sham colleges have operated, sometimes for years, in part because investigative and enforcement resources are stretched thin
. When you think about the things that need attention in the student-visa system, you can’t help but wonder if this isn’t a case of misplaced priorities.
But is Farmington really about the student-visa system at all? The allegation underpinning the case is that the people enrolled in the university didn’t want to study in the U.S., they wanted to work. Applying for a work visa, however, is next-to-impossible these days because a cap on the number granted annually hasn’t been lifted for nearly 15 years. Yet, there’s no sign that elected officials will move to address this or any of the other issues facing the broader immigration system.
Using student visas as part of the sting was mainly a matter of convenience, as one of few visas for long-term stay that isn’t limited. By and large, the student-visa system works as it should.
More than a million international students are currently in the United States, studying or working legally, through Optional Practical Training. They leave when they are supposed to – overstay rates for international students have actually been falling
in recent years.
The University of Farmington never was a real college. There were no professors, no classes or classrooms. And as a critique of the student-visa system, the case rings hollow, too.
What lessons do you draw from the University of Farmington? Share your thoughts by email. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.