Cover photo courtesy: Wikimedia.
BY VEENA RAO
UPDATE 2: Deepa and the eight other students who were stuck at New Delhi airport reached their final destinations in India on Saturday, August 19, 2023.
UPDATE: NRI Pulse spoke to Deepa (name changed to protect identity) one of the students who was deported on the Delta Airline flight she arrived on and was stuck at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport with eight other students, some without deportation papers.
Deepa said she was bound for Saint Louis University, Missouri, and had valid documents with her including her I-20, and university admission papers.
Her ordeal, she said, began when she arrived at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport where ICE officials checked her phone. ICE officers found a set of visa interview preparation questions stored on Deepa’s smartphone, setting the stage for an interrogation centered around these materials. Deepa said, the officials grilled her about the visa questions on her phone; asked her how much she had paid for visa coaching; what the visa interview officer’s name was.
“How was I supposed to remember what the visa interview officer’s name was?” Deepa said.
The officials soon informed her that she would be subject to deportation. She was given the choice of contacting the Indian Embassy; however, she was cautioned that if she were found to be lying, she could be thrown into jail.
When she and other students asked to speak to their parents, they were told that wasn’t necessary because they were not minors.
“We asked the officers to let us speak to the Indian Embassy so they could convey to our parents what had happened to us,” Priti said. “But the officers said the Embassy had closed for the day.”
She was then put in a holding cell with another female student– a tiny room with an open toilet and provided a mat and blanket.
Eight hours later, she was put on the same Delta flight she had arrived in.
She and other deported students are in the waiting hall at New Delhi international airport since 2.15 am IST. Indian immigration authorities will not allow them to leave the airport without their deportation papers, which the ICE officials forgot to hand over to them, according to Priti.
The Consulate General of India in Atlanta is in constant contact with the students.
Atlanta, GA, August 17, 2023: At least 16 Indian students were deported from the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport by immigration authorities in one day, according to reliable sources.
Several of the students who arrived in Atlanta were bound for Saint Louis University, Missouri, and were enrolled in Master’s programs.
The students were allegedly intimidated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and threatened jail time.
Priti, who was among those deported, told our source that the students were treated like criminals. They were not allowed to call or email their parents.
ICE officials, in an email response to the Consulate General of India in Atlanta, said the students did not seem to know which university they were headed to or what they were studying.
But the fact remains that the students had valid F-1 student visas and university admission.
The students were sent back to Delhi and some had trouble reaching their final destinations, according to our source.
NRI Pulse will stay on top of these developments, and publish more information when it becomes available.