27 November 2019

Accreditation agency lies to support ICE sting operation on foreign students

Accreditation of universities means that they self police and peer review each other to ensure there is a certain level of quality assurance. That they are real educational institutions that are not going to vanish.

I am in shock to learn that one accreditation agency was complicit in a terrible hoax.

University of Farmington office
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the US government, via Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), created a fake university, the University of Farmington.

Attorneys for the students arrested said they were unfairly trapped by the U.S. government since the Department of Homeland Security had said on its website that the university was legitimate. An accreditation agency that was working with the U.S. on its sting operation also listed the university as legitimate.

There is a lot going on in this story, and it’s not clear to me who this “sting” was intended to target. The story mentions “recruiters” have been charged, but their role is not clear.

But I am sort of stunned by the arguments the officials running it are making:

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. ...

“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.”

But another part of the story says:

The school was located on Northwestern Highway near 13 Mile Road in Farmington Hills and staffed with undercover agents posing as university officials.

So it’s not as though this fake “university” was just a website.

In any case, I am kind of against the whole “They should have known” argument when this fake university was listed as accredited. This is supposed to be the whole point of accreditation: to protect people from scams. Accreditation should protect people from profiteering scams and government entrapment scams.

The accreditation agency that participated in this should be ready to answer a lot of questions. I think this was extremely problematic behaviour on the part of the accrediting agency. It calls into question every other accreditation decision. If a government can warp the accreditation process for a sting, what other ways can “accreditation” be had?

External links

ICE arrests 90 more students at fake university in Michigan

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