Dozens of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided offices at the University of Northern Virginia's Annandale campus Thursday.
The University of Northern Virginia is an unaccredited, for-profit private university that calls itself the most popular American university for students from India. Thousands of students are registered at three locations in northern Virginia.
Agents removed boxes of documents from a building on Little River Turnpike where the university leases two suites.
The university temporarily can't accept any foreign students, reads a notice posted on the door of the offices. UNVA students must leave the country immediately if they are unable “to continue to attend classes and maintain their active status in a manner required by federal government regulations,” the notice reads.
ICE Raids University of Northern Virginia
“Today, officials from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) served University of Northern Virginia officials with a Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOIW) UNVA’s authorization to admit foreign students,” read a statement released by ICE spokeswoman Cori W. Bassett.
The school was told it can no longer participate in that program, but no specific reason was disclosed.
The school's chancellor provided a few clues Friday.
"The warrant included many items such as computer hardware equipment and paper documentation, which were all subsequently taken into government control," Chancellor Dr. David Lee said. "We were told that they would be returned early next week after they're copied."
On Friday, university officials said they are cooperating and have nothing to hide, News4's Jane Watrel reported.
"We want to emphasize that UNVA is open for business, classes are being held as scheduled, and as long as students attend classes as required, they will continue to remain in status," Lee said.
The raid is big news in India, where most of the schools students come from, Watrel reported. An Indian advocacy group based in D.C. went to the campus to investigate.
"Students are scared," student advocate Satish Vemana said. "Not only students. There are at least a lot of parents back home. They're crying, they're calling us because they send those kids here for their dreams."
No charges have been filed nor people arrested but the school is being investigated to see whether it conforms to federal regulations for the administration of student visas. Those regulations were tightened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Foreign-born students at the campus Thursday said they have attended classes in the building and earned degrees from the school. One said the school helps students get their student visas.
If the investigation discovers the school improperly handled student visas, the school could face severe penalties.