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Outrage Over Trump’s Immigration University

Except there’s just one problem, this Trump U isn’t Trump’s.

Last night, Twitter shared with its users an intriguing, but troubling story out of a Detroit suburb. The Department of Homeland Security created a fake university in Farmington Hills with the goal of catching violations of US immigration law.

Indictments were forthcoming Wednesday.

According to NBC News, The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said, “the defendants, a group of foreign citizens, conspired with each other and others to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI special agents as part of an undercover operation.”

Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press added, “Federal agents used a fake university in Farmington Hills to lure alleged phony foreign students who were trying to stay in the United States illegally. The University of Farmington had no staff, no instructors, no curriculum and no classes but was utilized by undercover Homeland Security agents to identify people involved in immigration fraud, according to federal grand jury indictments unsealed Wednesday. Eight student recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy, from February 2017 through January 2019, to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the U.S. illegally. Simultaneously Wednesday, federal agents arrested dozens of University of Farmington students in a nationwide sweep. The students were arrested on immigration violations and face possible deportation, according to a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

The indictment says that the scheme to violate US immigrations laws began in February of 2017 and has been occurring until this year.  Readers and twitter users who react without checking multiple sources were happy to hear those dates as they clearly paint the Trump Administration in a bad light. The Trump Administration’s perceived hostility to immigration makes this story one for the outrage machine, yet we see that the program was implemented several years ago by President Obama.

The Detroit News says, “[the] novel investigation dates to 2015.”

And NBC adds, “the fake school was launched during the Obama administration, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Because of this information, we can dismiss the Trump University comparisons and the incessant hollering about Trump’s hatred of migrants.  We’ve seen this type of selective outrage when Obama used chemical weapons against illegal immigrants at the border. Or when Obama caged migrant children. It’s only bad when Trump does it.

Concerns of entrapment are circulating the web and are hinted at in these three articles. It’s the idea that these individuals would not be on the authorities’ radar but for the existence of the phony university.

And while journalists and legal experts will throw it out for discussion, I think it would be prudent to provide some legal context.

According to the DOJ, “A valid entrapment defense has two related elements: (1) government inducement of the crime, and (2) the defendant’s lack of predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct. Mathews v. United States, 485 U.S. 58, 63 (1988). Of the two elements, predisposition is by far the more important.”

“Inducement is the threshold issue in the entrapment defense. Mere solicitation to commit a crime is not inducement. Sorrells v. United States, 287 U.S. 435, 451 (1932). Nor does the government’s use of artifice, stratagem, pretense, or deceit establish inducement. Id. at 441. Rather, inducement requires a showing of at least persuasion or mild coercion, United States v. Nations, 764 F.2d 1073, 1080 (5th Cir. 1985); pleas based on need, sympathy, or friendship, ibid.; or extraordinary promises of the sort “that would blind the ordinary person to his legal duties,” United States v. Evans, 924 F.2d 714, 717 (7th Cir. 1991). See also United States v. Kelly, 748 F.2d 691, 698 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (inducement shown only if government’s behavior was such that “a law-abiding citizen’s will to obey the law could have been overborne”); United States v. Johnson, 872 F.2d 612, 620 (5th Cir. 1989) (inducement shown if government created “a substantial risk that an offense would be committed by a person other than one ready to commit it”).”

Sure, the practice may be underhanded. Sure the practice may look bad when Trump implements it.  Sure, Obama may not have shown the same gusto for immigration enforcement as Trump has. But, none of that means that this practice was illegal or impermissible.

And since authorities have claimed to have discovered a large underground network of visa fraud and other schemes that skirt immigration law, it is worth pursuing.

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