By Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.
Some will remember the huge uproar about the F-1 student visa crackdown on students that were enrolled with the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), a fake university created by the Department of Homeland Security in order to identify fraudulent F1 students, who simply wanted to enroll in the school to obtain a visa and come to the US to live and work.
The strategy worked, too well, it seems, because many of the students were just unsuspecting bystanders who got caught up in the process. Therefore because of the concerns of entrapment, the Department of Homeland Security was sued and the following is a notice of proposal for class action settlement in the matter. DONG, ET AL. v. JOHNSON, ET AL., United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Civil Case Number 17-2092-ES-JSA. Below is a brief summary of the proposal. The complete summary is available through the court and the plaintiff’s attorney(s).
This notice is the proposed settlement in a class-action lawsuit against U.S. immigration authorities and other U.S. Government defendants pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
The proposed settlement (“Settlement”), if approved, will affect anyone if they were ever enrolled in the University of Northern New Jersey (“UNNJ”), a fake university run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). If someone meets the criteria, then there are some requirements to be included in the Class Action, and if approved, you will benefit from the settlement.
If you enrolled in UNNJ for any length of time, the Settlement will affect your legal rights and obligations regardless of whether you act. You do not need to live or be present in the United States for the Settlement to affect you.
What is this lawsuit about?
This lawsuit involves UNNJ, a fake university set up by the DHS to target brokers and recruiters who sought to abuse the U.S. immigration system for financial gain. After UNNJ was closed in April 2016, the Government terminated the status of noncitizens who had enrolled in UNNJ in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (“SEVIS”). Several of these noncitizens (the “Plaintiffs”) sued the Government, alleging that these termination decisions and related actions violated the law.
The Plaintiffs sued on behalf of themselves, but also sought to represent all non-U.S. citizens who enrolled at UNNJ. This means that the case was brought as what is called a “class action.” The class of persons affected by the proposed Settlement includes all individuals who ever enrolled in UNNJ for any length of time.
Before Plaintiffs’ claims were decided by the Court, Plaintiffs and the Government reached a Settlement. The Settlement cannot take effect, however, unless the Court approves the Settlement.
What does the Settlement do?
Below is a summary of the Settlement’s key terms. Broadly speaking, the Settlement does four things:
- Provides class members with some protections that relate to immigration benefits;
- Requires some class members to take certain actions within fixed deadlines;
- Bars future lawsuits relating to UNNJ;
- Compensates Plaintiffs’ Counsel for some of the fees and expenses incurred in this lawsuit.
Benefits of the Settlement for Class Members
Some of the terms in the Settlement apply in the same way to all Class Members, while some terms apply in different ways to Class Members depending on their current immigration status. These differences are noted below.
The benefits of the Settlement are as follows:
- The Government will not rely on your UNNJ enrollment to find you inadmissible or deportable.
- The Government will not deny you immigration benefits based on your UNNJ enrollment.
- You can retract any UNNJ-related misrepresentations made before UNNJ’s closure.
- If you are in removal proceedings or the final order of removal was issued against you, DHS will move to dismiss your removal proceedings.
- The Government will not consider you to have accrued unlawful presence or to be out of lawful status during a defined time period.
- DHS will expedite applications for immigration benefits filed during the time period described above.
- You can apply for reinstatement to student status if you are admitted to a new school and meet other requirements.
- Rescinding of status-termination letters.
- Modification of records and investigative databases.
For the complete terms of the Settlement, please refer to the Settlement Agreement, available at www.kktplaw.com/UNNJClassAction, by contacting Plaintiffs’ Counsel (see the contact information at Question No. 7 above), or by visiting the office of the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Newark Division.
Because the Settlement involves complex immigration issues, you may wish to consult with a lawyer to better understand how the Settlement will affect you individually.