Tuesday, February 1, 2011

US Mission India: Oh dear, did she really call those ICE anklets "hip and happening?"

This is a double trouble news.  Apparently on January 28, Fox News reported that every year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials close hundreds of sham "schools" serving as fronts for illegal immigration operations.  More from New America post:

And when they do, thousands of foreign nationals, who paid "tuition" in exchange for student visas, are left in a helpless situation, and founders of these alleged "schools" are put behind bars.

The latest school in the news is Tri-Valley University (TVU) in Pleasanton, California, near San Francisco — which was raided by ICE agents and shut down last week. According to this which cited the Fox report, the raid included a sting operation on school founder, Susan Su. Federal prosecutors say TVU wasn't a school at all, but a scheme to defraud the government — and it could be the biggest of its kind.

In a related note, citing a federal complaint filed in a California court last week, Deccan Herald reports that TVU helped foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status. The university is said to have 1,555 students. As many as 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals. The report also states that investigations by ICE found that while students were admitted to various residential and on-line courses of the university and on paper lived in California, but in reality they "illegally" worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Some of the students in California were reportedly radio tagged, that is, made to wear electronic anklets and must also now deal with their immigration status in the U.S.

Sify.com reported that "Over 1,500 Indian students, majority of them from Andhra Pradesh, are facing an uncertain future after Tri-Valley University in California was shut down for violation of visa rules. The students face the danger of being deported and the US authorities have radio tagged some of them to track them, evoking protest from the Indian government.

Here is what TVU says about its Accreditation and Licensure:
Tri-Valley University is accreditted by International Association of Bible Colleges and Seminaries (IABCS). Some individual academic programs also apply for specific accreditation, such as the J. D. program is seeking provisional accreditation status with American Bar Association (ABA); Pharm. D. program plans to seek Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) accreditation. Tri-Valley University is licensed to operate in Pleasanton, California. According to State of California Education Code with the Bureau for Private Post-Secondary and Vocation Education, California has state religious exemption provision. Tri-Valley University is also authorized by the Federal Government to admit international students and issuing I20 for F-1 Visa.

We don't know how that school pass through the fine tooth comb of DHS/ICE.

That's a big enough headache already for the Feds, but that's only half the trouble brewing.

Here's the other half of the trouble.

Juliet Wurr, the Public Affairs Officer at the US Consulate in Hyderabad was quoted by local reports as saying that the electronic tagging of the Indian students in the US was a "hip and happening" thing and wondered why Indians were agitated over it.
'It's funny people getting upset about this. I don't know about your servants...but my servant has big heavy silver anklets...that look a heck of a lot more uncomfortable and binding.'

Oh, dear! We cringed down to our oversize pajamas!  Did a Public Affairs Officer really say that? Seriously?

Unfortunately, she really did.

(Sorry, the YouTube video we originally posted here yesterday has now been removed by user.)

Let's try this clip from NDTV:

She must have been thinking of domestic diva, Martha Stewart
(did not like it), Paris Hilton (and her house arrest accessories), Lindsay Lohan (hers detects booze) and other American celebrities who had a run in with the law. But what's "hot" or "hip" is in the eye of the beholder; gets complicated when transplanted into a different culture.         

The Indian External Affairs Ministry reportedly  lodged a strong protest with the US Embassy in New Delhi over this "unacceptable" comments.

So then -- US Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Lu expressed regrets over the comments (we think Ambassador Roemer is in the big ambo powwow in DC). Mr. Lu was also reported as having asked the US official to publicly apologize.

And now, Ms. Wurr has apologized quoted by sify.com here.

'I apologise deeply because I would never want to insult or hurt the feelings of any Indian, particularly young people who are going through a very trying time now in this situation,' Wurr said Tuesday night.

One very important lesson here, perhaps?  There is nothing/nothing funny about anything when you speak for Uncle Sam. Glad we don't speak for any uncles.

US Mission India's statement on the Tri-Valley case is here.


Jill said...

Wow. Open mouth, insert foot!

The use of the word "servant" has always bothered me ... despite it being what many people used to call their household help. I never could do it - and I notice now that I'm cringing when I type it. It makes it sound even worse when it's so casually discussed on the news ... bu the "face of the US".

While I would agree that the silver bangles that my maid wore on her ankles WERE loud and heavy... I think I'd choose that over a "hip and happening" electronic ankle monitoring device.

But I can see that she meant well ... she just didn't quite say what she needed to in a diplomatic way.

Stephanie said...

Yeah, this has been keeping everyone pretty busy here.