WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Wednesday preliminary results from Operation OPTical Illusion, a law enforcement operation targeting nonimmigrant students who fraudulently used the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to remain in the United States. OPT enables nonimmigrant students to work in the United States in positions related to their field of study for up to one year, with an additional 24 months if the student participates in STEM optional practical training.
The operation, which is ongoing, resulted in the arrest of 15 nonimmigrant students who claimed to be employed by companies that don’t exist.
“Today’s announcement is just another example of the Trump Administration not only putting America first but making sure the laws of our immigration system are enforced,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. “Every instance of fraud is a job an American worker could have had, and with so many Americans looking for work this crime is even more unacceptable.”
“ICE has a system of checks in place to mitigate fraud and is committed to protecting national security by ensuring that students, visitors, and schools comply with U.S. immigration laws,” said ICE Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tony Pham. “These latest arrests demonstrate that the agency is actively targeting individuals who try to exploit the student visa system.”
The 15 arrests took place in and around Boston, MA; the Washington, DC area; Houston, TX; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Newark, NJ; Nashville, TN; as well as Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, PA, and included 11 Indian nationals, two Libyan nationals, one Senegalese national and one Bangladeshi national.
The agency will continue to vet students who gained new employment through OPT for compliance with their nonimmigrant status. Any identified leads will be reviewed for potential future enforcement.