New Delhi: The US Monday sought to justify the use of ankle monitors on the students, duped by now closed Tri-Valley University, saying it was widespread across America as a standard procedure for a variety of investigations and does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity.
The US response followed a sharp reaction by Indian government which termed the use of trackers as "unacceptable" and demanded their removal.
After being duped by a California-based "sham" university, scores of Indian students in the US were forced to wear radio collars around their ankles so that authorities can keep track of their movements.
"US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have established a helpline for the Indian students affected by the closure of Tri-Valley University in California, under which any affected student may call to seek help. Some of those involved in the Tri-Valley investigation have been issued ankle monitors.
"Use of ankle monitors is widespread across the United States and standard procedure for a variety of investigations, and does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity. An ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signal containing location and other information to a receiver. It allows for freedom of movement and is a positive alternative to confinement during a pending investigation," the US Embassy here said in a statement.
It said the the US government welcomes all legitimate students wishing to study there and strongly encourages prospective students to protect themselves from predatory visa fraud rings and fraudulent document vendors.
Reacting sharply to the US action to tie trackers on the Indian students, the Ministry of External Affairs had said "we have conveyed to the US authorities that the students, most of whom are victims, must be treated fairly and reasonably and the use of monitors on a group of students, who were detained and later released with monitors in accordance with US laws, is unwarranted and should be removed."
Government had also asked the US authorities to provide information about the investigation as it unfolds, as well as, on the action being taken against the promoters of the university and others involved in perpetrating the fraud.
The State Department is following this case closely and is in regular communication with Indian officials, the US embassy statement said.
"The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (DHS/ICE) is leading the investigation and as an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to discuss further details at this time," it said.
If fraud victims choose to return to India first and apply for a new student visa, they will be treated in the same way as any other applicant, it said.
To combat fraud, the US Embassy offers extensive educational advising resources and regularly undertakes consular outreach initiatives to help prospective students to avoid fraudulent document vendors and diploma mills.
The US-India Educational Foundation provides college information and counseling services to students across India and consular officers hold frequent seminars on the proper way to apply for a student visa, including how to guard against visa fraud.
"We encourage all students to use these resources to ensure that they are enrolling in registered and accredited programmes that are appropriate for their means and needs," the statement added.
The US State Department also cooperates extensively with Indian government to identify and shut down visa fraud rings and encourage Indian government to further support local police forces in these investigations.
"Visa fraud is not a victim-less crime and fraud agents and fake document vendors target some of the most vulnerable and impoverished members of Indian society. Fraud hinders genuine students from studying in the US and causes opportunities and resources to be taken away from legitimate applicants.
However, victims of fraud do have access to a variety of federal and state resources in the US -- at minimum, each US state has victims -- assistance units to aid victims of crime, and a legitimate student who is a fraud victim should have little trouble re-applying and enrolling in a different, fully-accredited educational organization.
"The Department of State takes allegations of immigration and visa fraud very seriously and the Tri-Valley University fraud allegations are an excellent example of the universally damaging effects of visa fraud," it added.