By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 1 (IANS) The United States has justified the use of radio ankle monitors on some students of a sham university in California, 95 percent of them from India, saying it takes charges of visa fraud "very seriously".
"We take these allegations of immigration and visa fraud very seriously," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Monday when asked about India's objection to the use of ankle bracelets on the duped students of Tri Valley University.
"These allegations are an excellent example of the universally damaging effects of visa fraud," he said.
Asked if the issue came up in talks here last week with India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Crowley said: "I do not know."
Many of the 1,555 students, mostly from Andhra Pradesh enrolled at the Pleasanton School, could be deported if they are found to be in violation of their immigration status.
In a complaint filed Jan 19 in US District Court in San Francisco, the US Attorney's Office alleges that the owner of Tri Valley University used the school to help foreigners illegally obtain student visas that allow them to stay in the US.
Justifying the use of ankle bracelets that track a wearer's movements with radio frequency signals on a few students, Crowley said: "Those who are involved in this investigation have been issued ankle monitors."
"This is widespread across the United States and standard procedure for a variety of investigations. It does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity," he said repeating a statement made by the US embassy in New Delhi.
"But we are following this case closely," and "are in regular communication with officials of the Government of India," Crowley said.
The US Department of Homeland Security and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) are leading the investigation, he said.
ICE has also established a helpline for the Indian students affected by the closure of Tri-Valley University.