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'Blacklisted' U.S. College Nightmare: Air India offloads 19 Indian Students

Air India stopped 19 students from Hyderabad from boarding a flight to San Francisco as they ran the risk of being deported when they arrived on the West Coast to enroll in two 'blacklisted' U.S schools.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   22-12-2015

India's national carrier stopped 19 students in Hyderabad on Monday night from boarding a flight to the West Coast saying the two Bay area schools in which they had enrolled were under U.S. government scrutiny.

The students were travelling from Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad to San Francisco to enroll in two California schools — Silicon Valley University in San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic in Fremont. The U.S. has been making an effort to alert foreign governments of unauthorized "diploma mills" that are still seen in a lot of places despite repeated bans.

"In the past, we have witnessed that students who secured admission in those institutions have been deported to India as soon as they land on the West Coast. To avoid embarrassment and save the students their money, we prevented them from boarding the flight," an Air India spokesperson told Braingainmag.com.

Air India received a heads-up on December 19 from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency about the Silicon Valley University, in California and North Western Polytechnic College, in Fremont.

Air India's move comes amid reports that 14 Indian students who travelled to the U.S. last week were deported allegedly after being kept in jail in San Francisco for three days. The students claimed they were also quizzed by the FBI during their detention.

"So far, 14 students who travelled on Air India flights to San Francisco have been deported. Students travel on a one-way ticket to the U.S. and, in the event of deportation, incur a huge expenditure to buy a ticket back to India on the first available service. Further, seats are often not available on any airlines to travel back," added the Air India official.

Air India has offered the unfortunate students a full refund and told them it will waive rescheduling fees in case they need to travel to the U.S. soon. The state-run carrier said it will start accepting Indian students travelling to these schools, at no additional cost, as soon as it gets the green signal from Air India's U.S. office.
 

The U.S. Schools Fire Back

Both the Bay Area schools are denying news reports that they have been "blacklisted" by the U.S. government. Silicon Valley University in San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic in Fremont, posted alerts on their websites asking students to bring proper documentation as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency are implementing stricter security measures, which is not specific to them but everyone entering the U.S. after the Paris bombings. They also said that the reports suggesting the schools were in trouble were false.

"It's nothing to do with the school," Jerry Shiao, president and academic dean of Silicon Valley University, told U.S. reporters.

Some students did clear immigration in San Francisco, but others did not, said Simon Au, Silicon Valley University's associate dean.

"The ones that got turned back faltered in answering questions," said Au.

"I've been on email since the weekend letting them know they are safe to re-enter."

Both the schools reiterated that they are on the list of institutions approved for the Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

Northwestern Polytechnic University officials asked students to hold off on travelling while university officials cleared up this issue with Air India.

Diplomats in the Indian Consulate in New York told Braingainmag.com that they are trying to gather information on the matter.
 

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America for TV 18’s Firstpost news site and a writer for Forbes India. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.

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