New Delhi: A day after India strongly condemned the radio tagging of Indian students duped by a fake university in San Francisco, the US Monday vigorously defended the practice, saying it was a "standard procedure" for a variety of investigations and did not imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity.
The US also assured its department of homeland security was probing the closure of Tri-Valley University in San Francisco. Some 1,555 students of the university, 90 percent of them from India, mostly Andhra Pradesh, face the prospect of deportation following the closure of the university in Pleasanton on charges of selling student visas.
"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," the US embassy said in a statement.
"Some of those involved in the Tri-Valley investigation have been issued ankle monitors," the embassy said.
"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 Department of State is following this case closely and is in regular communication with Government of India officials," the embassy 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.
On Sunday, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna demanded that the US government "initiate severe action against those officials responsible for this inhuman act".
"Indian students are not criminals. The radio collars should immediately be removed," Krishna said in Bangalore.
The external affairs ministry Saturday had said the use of monitors was "unwarranted" and raised the issue with US` deputy chief of mission Donald Lu.
The radio-trackers on students has triggered a wave of anger through the Indian community in the US, also home to over 100,000 Indian students.
The US, however, assured that if victims of the fraud choose to return to India first and apply for a new student visa, they will be treated the same as any other applicant.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has established a helpline for the Indian students affected by the closure of Tri-Valley University in California, which any affected student may call to seek help, the embassy said.
The US Department of State also cooperates extensively with the Indian government to identify and shut down visa fraud rings - and we encourage the Indian government to further support local police forces in these investigations, the embassy said.
The US government also stressed that it welcomed all legitimate students wishing to studying the United States, and strongly encourages prospective students to protect themselves from predatory visa fraud rings and fraudulent document vendors.
"Visa fraud is not a victimless crime, and fraud agents and fake document vendors target some of the most vulnerable and impoverished members of Indian society," the embassy said, adding that fraud prevented genuine students from studying in the US.
Washington stressed that victims of fraud have access to a variety of federal and state resources in the US. 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.