DALLAS - Forty immigration status violators, visa overstays and foreign students were arrested for violating the conditions of their nonimmigrant visas during a 12-day operation ending Friday by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The 21 men and 19 women were arrested by HSI's Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU), part of a national program designed to prevent terrorists and other criminals from exploiting the nation's immigration system. CTCEU also reviews the immigration status of known and suspected terrorists, combats criminal exploitation of the student and exchange visitor visa program, and leverages HSI's investigative expertise to identify national security threats.
"The 9-11 tragedy identified how critically important it is for us to screen, track and enforce the student visa program in the United States," said David M. Marwell, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. "Maintaining the integrity of the student visa program is a significant segment of maintaining national security." Marwell oversees 128 counties in north Texas and the state of Oklahoma.
Those arrested are from the following 17 countries:
- Saudi Arabia (1)
- Yemen (1)
- Kenya (15)
- Azerbaijan (1)
- Zimbabwe (1)
- Zambia (1)
- Nepal (2)
- Nigeria (4)
- Gambia (2)
- Cameroon (3)
- Grenada (2)
- Thailand (1)
- Spain (1)
- Jamaica (1)
- Dominica (1)
- Mexico (2)
- Antigua and Barbuda (1)
The 40 arrested were encountered in Edmond, Okla., and the following 12 north Texas cities:
- Wichita Falls
All have been processed for immigration removal proceedings.
In addition to their immigration violations, three of those arrested falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, which is a felony and results in being permanently barred from legally re-entering the United States. During this operation, CTCEU agents also criminally arrested a Mexican national for illegally re-entering the United States after having been previously deported twice.
ICE officers from Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in Dallas also assisted with this operation. In addition to HSI Dallas, agents from the following HSI sub-offices also participated:
- San Angelo
- Wichita Falls
- Oklahoma City
The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) acts as the bridge for government organizations that have an interest in information on foreign students. SEVP helps the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DoS) monitor school and exchange programs and F (academic), M (vocational) and J (exchange) category visitors. SEVP administers the F and M visa categories, while DoS manages the J exchange visitor program.
There are 348 SEVP-certified schools and 32,896 foreign students within the HSI Dallas area of responsibility, including numerous aviation schools.
SEVP uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a web-based solution, to track and monitor schools and programs, students, exchange visitors and their dependents while they're approved to participate in the U.S. education system.
SEVP collects, maintains and provides the information so that only legitimate foreign students or exchange visitors gain entry to the United States. The result is an easily accessible information system that provides timely information to DoS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and ICE.
Study in the States Initiative:
On Sept. 16, 2011, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton launched the Study in the States Initiative at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A key aspect of this initiative seeks to enhance coordination between the various federal agencies that play a role in implementing our international student visa and exchange visitor programs.
Sponsored by DHS and managed by SEVP, the Study in the States website provides a wealth of information and resources to encourage the best and brightest international students to study and learn about expanded post-graduate opportunities in the United States.