PLEASANTON -- Frustration over the closure of a Pleasanton-based university that federal authorities have called a sham spilled over internationally to India on Friday.
Activists from the All India Students Federation staged a protest outside the office of the U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad. Members, who clashed with police and tried to break into the consulate grounds, asked the government to help and protect the 1,555 students of Tri-Valley University -- a majority of whom are from that region of India, according to Indian news reports.
On Jan. 20, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Tri-Valley University campus on Boulder Court in Pleasanton and executed search warrants at three other properties owned by school founder Susan Su.
A day earlier, the U.S. Attorney General's Office filed a civil complaint against Su, claiming she was part of a scheme to defraud, using false statements and misrepresentations to the Department of Homeland Security.
The complaint says Su had made millions of dollars in tuition fees for issuing visa-related documents that enabled foreign nationals to obtain illegal student immigration status.
School offices are closed and classes that were to begin after the holidays have not started.
Students, who pay about $2,700 per semester, have been left uncertain about their immigration status and future education options. The majority of the school's classes are done online and students are located all over the country.
Ninety percent of the school's students are from India said Jayaram Komati, president of the Telugu Association of North America.
A Milpitas resident, Komati said his organization, which began 35 years ago and has 20,000 members nationwide, got involved shortly after the raid because the majority of the school's Indian students are from Andhra Pradesh, the fourth largest state in southeast India and where the language Telugu is spoken.
"Ultimately, we want to protect the kids within the boundaries of the law," he said. "They are not here to break the law. This is no fault of the students. It is the university not living up to the norms of society."
Komati advised students attending Tri-Valley University to seek immigration advice from an immigration attorney. His organization posted a notice and contact information for Santa Clara-based immigration attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla on what steps students could take. A call to Peddibhotla's office was not returned.
Komati said that a number of students have already been interviewed by ICE agents, most have been questioned and released but he said a few have been required to wear ankle bracelets.
ICE officials could not comment on the case, stating the only information available was what was available in the civil complaint filed Jan. 19. However, ICE did provide an e-mail address and telephone number that only students may use to contact immigration officials.
The protest in India came a day after a group of Indian students met with Susmita Gongulee Thomas, consul general of India in San Francisco, to discuss the closure and the limbo status of the school's 1,555 students, Komati said.
A message on the consulate's website said that on behalf of the students the consulate was taking up the matter with the correct authorities to seek admission to another university or to "go back honorably to India."
A call to the consulate and the U.S. District Attorney's Office were not returned.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report. Robert Jordan covers Dublin and Pleasanton. Contact him at 925-847-2184.
Students who attend Tri-Valley University and have question about their immigration status are encouraged by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to either e-mail or call that department. Students may call
415-844-5320 and leave a message, or they can e-mail SFRHSIFraud@dhs.gov.
The Telugu Association of North America also has resources including an immigration attorney students can contact at www.tana.org or by calling