TANA Leadership met with the Indian Ambassador in DC

The Embassy of India in Washington D.C. and Her Excellency Ambassador Nirupama Rao hosted a meeting on April 20th with representatives of the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), Murthy Law Firm attorneys, and officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The meeting addressed the current issues with the maintenance of F-1 status by students enrolled at the University of Northern Virginia (UNVA).  


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During the first part of the meeting, those attended included, among other participants, Ambassador Nirupama Rao; Deputy Chief of Mission, Ambassador, Arun K. Singh; Counselor Tapan K. Deka; President of TANA, Prasad Thotakura; NRI Student Services Chair at TANA Ashok Kolla; TANA members Sasala Challa, Harsha Khambhampati and Managing Attorney Aron Finkelstein and Attorney Anna Stepanova of the Murthy Law Firm. The meeting started with Mr. Thotakura and Mr. Kolla describing current problems with immigration status that are commonly experienced by current and former UNVA students. More specifically, because of the manner in which these students were authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), enrollment in on-line classes, reduction in course work, and other similar issues, most students who were or still are enrolled at UNVA are now being denied immigration benefits such as changes of status, and authorization for the initial period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) and its extension based on a degree within a STEM field. As was explained by Attorney Finkelstein, even if some students may have known that their authorizations for CPT, excessive distance learning and reductions in course work could have been improper, the only party who was in a position to make authorizations that have now become an indication of "failure to maintain F-1 status" is a Designated School Official (DSO) at UNVA and not the students themselves. As an extension of the immigration system, the DSO has an imputed position of authority which students do not generally have reason to question or second guess.  


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At the conclusion of the initial discussion, Ambassador Rao met with two official representatives from ICE, Chief of Exploitations Crimes Unit, Office of International Affairs, Katerina Kane; and Deputy Assistant Director Herbert P. Kaufer; both of Homeland Security Investigations. Both of the ICE officials then had a productive discussion with the attendees from TANA and the Murthy Law Firm.   Deputy Assistant Director Kaufer emphasized that no UNVA students' SEVIS records were terminated and the school still remains in operation in accordance with the law and pertinent regulations.   Deputy Assistant Director Kaufer stated that individual cases are reviewed and adjudicated on a case-by case basis and it is important, therefore, to make sure that each student present their case fully answering all the Service's requests that meet all of the requirements for F-1 status maintenance. As most students followed the instructions and complied with all of the requirements put in place by their DSO, TANA through the Murthy Law Firm’s Managing Attorney asked that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) exercise prosecutorial discretion when it adjudicates the UNVA students' cases. Specifically, if a finding was made that the student followed the instructions of the DSO that it should be treated as if they did not do anything that would be considered an impediment to status. While the U.S. Government Officials did not fully agree to this standard, they did agree to speak to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials to take the DSO issue into account during their case by case adjudications.  


The meeting ended on a positive note with the ICE officials acknowledging the need to exercise prosecutorial discretion in current UNVA cases and to increase the control over the actions taken by the DSO and enforcement of SEVP policies so that students are not as likely to violate their F-1 status inadvertently and at the direction of their schools and DSOs



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