Twenty Indian students carrying valid student visas for colleges in California were denied entry in Chicago and put on planes back to India on Sunday, following other incidents of the U.S. turning away people from certain countries.
The U.S. is in a heightened state of vigilance since the terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California. One of the shooters in San Bernardino came in on a fiance visa, prompting concern that potential terrorists could find loopholes to enter the country on valid visas or through the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of friendly countries to visit the United States without visas.
Some foreigners have already been barred from entering the country without being told why. Last week, a British Muslim family planning a trip to Disneyland was told by United Kingdom border officials that they wouldn’t be allowed to board a plane to the United States. Another 20 British Muslim families were reportedly denied entry into the United States without explanation.
In the latest incident, the Indian students, who were issued F-1 student visas and carried the necessary I-20 forms issued by the schools certifying their admission, were turned back in Chicago, the Times of India reported. According to the publication, some of the students failed immigration interviews at the port of entry in Chicago. According to the Deccan Herald, some students were grilled for hours at a local jail and “were not served proper food.”
The students intended to go on to two California-based, accredited colleges offering technical and computer science degrees: Silicon Valley University in San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic in Fremont.
In a similar incident this month, 19 other Indian students were not allowed to board an Air India plane headed to San Francisco for the same schools. The airline said U.S. authorities told them that the two schools were under scrutiny.
At the time, both SVU and Northwestern Polytechnic denied being “blacklisted” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The schools insisted that that the US Customs and Border Protection agency was likely “just implementing stricter screening security measures, which are not specific to their students, but to all international students entering the US.”
After the first students were deported, the U.S. embassy in India issued a statement that it “regret[s] the impact this may have had on certain students and their families” but that it was continuing to monitor the situation and that they were in “regular communication with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Government of India.”
In the 2014-2015 academic school year, the U.S. embassy has admitted about 130,000 Indians to study in the United States.