Michigan Policast for Monday, December 1, 2019
Cover photo: GM/Buick/Chevy complex in Flint, MIIn this episode:
- Segment one: Tax incentives or corporate welfare?
- Segment two: Larry Inman recall petitions thrown out
- Segment three: Arizona redistricting commission vs Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
- Segment four: Democratic primary polls
- Segment five: Pence visits Michigan again
- Segment six: Bloomberg money hits Michigan
- University of Farmington students — scammers or victims?
- Critics fear Michigan is promising the moon to land cloud data storage firms
- Inside Wisconsin’s Disastrous $4.5 Billion Deal With Foxconn
- Michigan eyes renewal of tax break that has cost $40K for every new job
- Tax incentives for FCA plants in Southeast Michigan may top $400 million
- Missing word scuttles recall petitions against state Rep. Larry Inman
- Typo sinks petition to recall state representative accused of bribery
- Michigan House Speaker ordered to testify in Rep. Inman’s corruption trial
Federal prosecutors are standing by their push to get House Speaker Lee Chatfield to testify in Rep. Larry Inman's trial next week.
They're even willing to schedule around his legislative duties: pic.twitter.com/yxFylG5hIq
— Craig Mauger (@CraigDMauger) November 25, 2019
New: Michigan's Bureau of Elections declares Larry Inman recall signatures invalid over discrepancies between approved petition language and circulated petitions: https://t.co/IMEFGu9UwP
— Lauren Gibbons (@LaurenMGibbons) November 29, 2019
- The tumultuous life of an independent redistricting commissioner
- The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission
- Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
- Democrats like Medicare for All, but swing voters don't
- 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination
- The Economist/YouGov Poll
Admiral Joe Sestak has dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, leaving the total number of Democrats in the field at 17. https://t.co/KDjwMpvEU2
— Axios (@axios) December 1, 2019
- Emails show how fake university in metro Detroit lured students
- ICE arrests more students at fake university, others being removed from US
- Farmington Hills fake university set up by ICE to nab foreign students
- I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification
Walt Sorg 0:04
One citizen petition drive survives still another republican challenge, while a second petition drive falls victim to a typographical error. This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and state policy and the national news impacting our pleasant peninsulas. I'm Walt Sorg actually got some turkey leftovers if anybody's interested.
Christine Barry 0:23
And I'm Christine Barry, the turkey and the state legislature accused felon Larry Inman. He gets a post Thanksgiving pardon thanks to one missing word. And get ready West Michigan because Trump apologist number one Mike Pence is coming for yet another visit. And this time mother has given him permission to travel with a woman would be Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Walt Sorg 0:46
and ice decides to take a page from the saga of Trump University, creating a fake University just went outside Detroit. The school has no faculty, no classrooms, just a lot of ICE agents with deportation orders. Amy's off the switch So it just you and me, Christine, let's begin with the subject that's been bugging me for quite a while. The never ending spiral of government incentives at the state and local level for businesses which promise lots of jobs, but rarely produce what a recent example is a cloud data storage center in Grand Rapids, which moved into that iconic pyramid office building that was originally built by Steelcase. The company is called switch, they are an internet provider. They have all of about 62 employees and got millions in tax incentives to locate here. And the legislature is debating whether or not more data centers would be good for the state. And in return, they want to give them literally 10s of millions of dollars in incentives, but they don't really produce many jobs. That data center is basically a whole bunch of computers sitting there sucking up electricity, sucking up air conditioning, and it just takes a few people to operate it. I don't get it, but it seems like we're just in a spiral where if we don't do it, somebody else is going to do it. taxpayers are the ones left holding the bag. The corporations are really doing a job on us.
Christine Barry 2:01
Part of our problem here in Michigan is the way that we fund our schools. So when we say that we're going to give these businesses incentives, because we want them to come here, and there's there's no question, we want business here. And we want people to be able to profit here. But when we start giving away school money in exchange for a package that isn't necessarily going to raise school funding in some other way, that's really a problem with the structure of how we're putting these things together, or the structure of how we do our budgets. So that in itself is a problem that needs to be addressed. The thing about data centers Walt, that really interest me is that they can be drivers of innovation for the state, a Big Data Center can help the state kickstart renewable energy initiatives. They often have technology visionaries who bring new ideas to the state, man and Michigan is a great place for data centers because we're cool Most of the time, our temperatures are usually in a range that is good for companies that have to keep their equipment. Cool. So there are some really interesting things you can do with them. I actually don't mind giving incentives to companies like that, but not at the expense of everything around them. And I think that's the point you're making is that we're just giving away too much for too little in return. And what really surprises me about this, in particular, when we talk about the school funding is that the state says, Well, if you're not getting the funds, because of this business package, we're putting together we guarantee you'll get the funds out of the state Treasury. What does that do for us as a as a state? What does that do for us to promise that we're going to pay the taxes that this business should be paying it still state fund money,
Walt Sorg 3:50
the game that a lot of them play to I've seen manufacturers do it beginning with General Motors is they take their tax incentives, they build their plants, they make their money those plants are when the tax incentives run out, they run out to Flint is the classic example. It was built in large part with tax incentives. And when they were gone, so was GM. And all of a sudden Flint now is one of the poorest cities in America, all because their major employer started shifting things to places where they could get a better deal. I think there has to be a national solution for those, there's no way to stop the states from competing with one another in any other way, the federal government's gonna have to step in and figure out some way to make it stop happening so that the states are getting a fair deal, because otherwise, they're just going to keep bidding against each other.
Christine Barry 4:33
I come back to the school funding. I think because of my focus on the school board here, I just keep coming back to how broken our school funding is, in this example that you just gave, that would make a huge difference in school funding in those areas.
Walt Sorg 4:45
In the case of switch the server farm that's in Grand Rapids, they're asking for state law to be changed again, because they want to make sure they are not subject to local school millages or property taxes to repay school bonds. And in their case, that's about $375,000 a year in local taxes they would avoid and that's $335,000 right out of the pockets of the school district.
Christine Barry 5:12
Walt, you have helped lead a major petition drive in the past and you know that the devil is in the details. Sadly, thousands of people up north in Larry Inman's area have learned this lesson the hard way.
Walt Sorg 5:27
They learned it in a really hard way. 14,000 signatures on petitions to recall Larry Inman from the legislature. He's under federal indictment for trying to solicit bribes and exchange for vote in the legislature which is generally considered to be pretty illegal. And obviously there was an effort to recall I mean, he's got no committee assignments in Lansing, he's virtually worthless as a state representative. They collected 14,000 signatures and their petitions which have to be approved by the State Board of canvassers. before they go out in the field. The language that to the Board of canvassers approved was changed by two typos They left out one word, right, that was missing from the federal charges listed in the petition. And then they misspelled the word diminished. And the circulators of the petition, they figured out that there was this problem halfway through their petition drive, and they were optimistic that the state would say no harm, no foul. But unfortunately, under state law, if there are any mistakes at all, you are dead in the water. They've had court cases over the size of the typeface used in petitions, and to leave at one word and have a typo in another word. Those are two fatal errors for a petition drive. They got 13,991 signatures they needed about 12,000 to get on the ballot is very tough to recall a public official cost about $60,000. And it's all for naught. it's really a sad situation. But unfortunately, that is exactly what the law says. I know when we were working on proposal to and the drafting there we had so many proofreaders on and we had a very long petition. that sucker was seven pages of legal type, legal size, type. There was a monster petition. And we had two drafts that we had to change. Because there was two words that were misspelled, as I recall, you got to be very, very careful with these things. It's just it's really it's a sad situation.
Christine Barry 7:11
It's It's sad, but I guess I don't understand how it got that far. They said that they thought it was the fault of the printer when their petitions came back, the language was wrong. And then as you mentioned, they were optimistic that it would be okay. Like, isn't there some checkpoint here where they can stop and say, okay, we better confirm that it's okay. Or
Walt Sorg 7:32
it's actually the beginning of the process. You take it to the Board of canvassers before you start circulating your petitions.
Christine Barry 7:37
But it's just for the language though, right?
Unknown Speaker 7:39
Yeah. But that was the language. They had the language wrong. They changed the language and the petition that was printed, even though it was a typo. It's a change in the language.
Christine Barry 7:49
So what they should have done when they were feeling optimistic, is go back to the printer and have them correct their work. Is that how
Walt Sorg 7:57
Yeah, they need to start all over again, Basically, the same sort of thing happened actually to former lieutenant governor Calley when he was circulating his petition for a part time legislature. They basically started realize they had a legal problem the case of theirs in terms of the language and they started over again.
Christine Barry 8:13
I guess what I'm saying though is that you get your you get your petitions from the printer at this point, there is no signatures. This is just these are just the documents you're going to go get signatures on. And if you read them at that point, and you see two typos or even just one typo, even if it's a misspelled word, that is the point where you go back to the printer and correct that.
Walt Sorg 8:33
Absolutely, absolutely. that's what you got to do and they failed to do that. They got the proofs back from the printer. They didn't do a good job of proofreading them they had a printed went out in the field and halfway through the discovered they had a problem and just kind of hoped wished it or we go away and kept going. And they found out the hard way. Nope, that ain't gonna work.
Christine Barry 8:51
And no shade on them for for that but I guess you You know, sometimes these petition drives people need to have an experienced voice in the room. I suspect that had you been there consultant or someone with your experience, those petitions that have been corrected?
Walt Sorg 9:05
Well, you begin with getting the right printer. There are some printers in the state who are very good at those who have done a lot of petitions and know all of these little problems. In fact, the printer we use for proposal 2 the head of that company had been used as an expert witness and another case involving the printing of petition. So we were willing to spend the money on that particular firm because we knew we needed to get the best for something like that.
In a Related development. The Speaker of the House has been ordered by federal court to testify under oath this week in the corruption trial of Representative Inman. Lee Chatfield, it sought to squash a subpoena for federal attorneys or prosecuting admin, a fellow Republican, of course accused of trying to sell a union group his vote on a initiative to repeal the prevailing wage for construction workers. The speaker is not accused of wrongdoing. He has called on Inman to resign, but he had cited legislative immunity and argued that he is needed in Lansing this week to help resolve an ongoing budget impasse with democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer. It sounds like Donald Trump with some of the things he said to avoid having his people testify in the impeachment proceedings. The court said, no Lee, you are coming to court you are going to testify under oath. And that is that. The house doesn't even meet until Tuesday. We are recording on Sunday. So he's got a couple of days to get ready. The testimony is not set yet for Chatfield. It's going to be in Grand Rapids federal court. And I'm sure he's feeling really good about that. Hopefully, he doesn't bring a gun with him to court.
Christine Barry 10:29
Well, hopefully he wouldn't get far if he did.
Walt Sorg 10:32
Well, he tried it on an airplane you never know.
Christine Barry 10:34
I know it. I know it. Well. I don't understand how you forget you have a firearm, but I'm sure that his testimony is going to be relevant to the case that the prosecutors are trying to build, I can see why you might want to avoid ever testifying under oath as a public official because you might say something that could be a problem later, even if you are, you know, not involved in any wrongdoing. It could be weaponized in some way, if you want to, you know, phrase it that way. But you know, I'm glad that the judge is having him go, because I think that you have to have that testimony. And in order to make this case against Inman.
Walt Sorg 11:11
yeah, I was called twice as a witness and trials over the years. I was at no risk at all in terms of the crime itself. I just have to have information that was relevant. But I was nervous.
Christine Barry 11:22
Yeah, I know for sure. And I'm surely Chatfield isn't having this problem. But I know and I've turned up for a few things as a witness. Somebody wanted to talk to me. I I'm nervous, too. And you know, sometimes these people are mean, they're just mean, when they come at you like that as if you've done something wrong. I don't know. I felt kind of intimidated by the process. And I don't think Lee Chatfield is intimidated. But it's not something that's pleasant. I wouldn't sign up for it. I don't want to do it.
Walt Sorg 11:47
No, I agree with you on that.
Christine Barry 11:54
Republicans are appealing in federal court decision which allow the process of creating Michigan's independent citizens redistricting commission to continue. Their basic claim is that the criteria for members, everyone's invited except for political insiders, is unfair to politicians. But an attack has come from another much more unlikely source, a column in the left leaning online magazine Michigan Advance. Now while you saw this column and you kind of went ballistic?
Walt Sorg 12:20
Yeah, I went ballistic right away when I saw it because what it is is the personal story of an independent commission member in Arizona who says the headline is the tumultuous life of an independent redistricting Commissioner. And in the article they talked about you getting her getting threats, even to the point of death threats because the decisions made by the Commission. My concern with the column is that it could intimidate people from wanting to be a part of Michigan's independent commission because they would fear for their lives or whatever. And the two Commission's are very, very different. In fact, when we were putting together the language to create the Michigan commission, we looked at Arizona and tried to fix some things we thought that they did wrong. The biggest problem they've got an Arizona is it's even though It's an independent commission. It is basically a creature of the legislature, four of the five commissioners are appointed to from each of the major political parties by the legislative leaders. Then the four of them pick the fifth member who's the tie breaking vote, a lot of decisions. Anything that's really controversial is going to pass on a three two vote with two people from one party plus the chair who's really got all of the power. And Colleen Mathis is the chair who is the swing vote on many of these issues. In Michigan, we set it up with a 13 member commission. And no major decisions can be made by the Commission without support from two Republicans to Democrats and to not affiliated or independent members of the Commission, so that no one person is the critical vote. The other thing is we kept the legislature out of the process. The legislative leaders don't appoint it's a random drawing in Michigan, so that the legislature is only role as they can eliminate a few people from the potential list because there are ringers. There is a third problem with this as well. Mrs Mathis is married to a political consultant. And as such, she's, she's accused of having bias because of her husband's history. And Michigan, she couldn't be a member of the Commission, because the spouses of political consultants are part of that small group of political insiders who were banned from being on the commission. So the article leaves an awful lot left unsaid in the differences between Michigan and Arizona. But the story that it leaves behind for the average reader is that it's kind of dangerous to be a member of the Michigan invented commission, and it simply is not. And that's what I've pissed off.
Christine Barry 14:32
That makes sense. It did sound pretty scary, and we pay attention to this stuff. And you see this all the time where there's a certain faction that gets whipped up, and they start to do stupid things like threaten you or I was put on a on a shoot to kill list along with Nancy Pelosi. One time just because of a blog that I wrote, that was back when Mike Bishop censored us and you know, so I had a little higher profile then and It's just, it's just silly. And so some of that I could see being overblown. But when you start to see things like the attorney general who was a republican got involved to investigator and, you know, one of the republicans on the commission was saying, Oh, well, what she was doing was constitutionally incorrect or something like that. You can see this was a political thing. This body was a political body. It wasn't what you guys had in mind. So when I read it, I could tell there was a difference between the Arizona commission and what the Michigan commission would look like.
Walt Sorg 15:33
One thing is one person cannot sway the process. They can try to sway the process but one to bed egg in the the batch of 13 is not going to change things.
Christine Barry 15:43
And people would have to pay attention to the 13 people and it would be much harder I think, to single out one person I think to your point there.
Walt Sorg 15:56
Okay, let's do a quick round on 2020 presidential political issues. Issue number one, Elizabeth Warren's poll numbers are dropping. Pete buttigieg. His numbers are climbing. And all maybe over the issue of Medicare for all, first of all, the most recent national poll, not the national polls mean a whole heck of a lot at this point, because it's not a national election. It's 50 state elections. But Joe Biden continues in the lead with 28%. This is a CNN poll taken November 21, through 24. Then you got Bernie Sanders who has stayed really flat. He doesn't go up or down very much. He stays right around 17% throughout to the polling and ethics us because he's really got a very committed base. That's not going to change but apparently secutor grow either. Elizabeth Warren comes in at 14% Pete Buttigieg at 11% that it drops all the way down to 3%. Michael Bloomberg with his multimillion dollar rollout of his campaign, is it 3% nationally, and of course he wasn't pulled before because he wasn't a candidate. It'll be interesting to see how far he can get especially since he's not participating. In the early round of contest and not getting involved, really until Super Tuesday, and then you've got Harris and steyer and Yang 3%, Booker Klobuchar at 2%, Castro at 1%, and Bennett, Delaney Gabbert and Patrick and Williamson coming in at just about nothing. The issue that seems to be driving all of this is Medicare. For all the polling on that is consistently going down as people find out the true Medicare for All is proposed by Bernie Sanders means you lose the option of having private health insurance.
Christine Barry 17:30
Yeah, and that just that wouldn't work for me either. I want everyone to have the health care that they need. And for it to be affordable because a lot of people have health care that they can afford to use, but I'm not really interested in giving up my health care to jump into the Medicare for all system. I don't really need it. I need health care, but I don't know. You know, I'm not an expert on this topic. But if I was pulled on this, I would say no, I don't want to give up private healthcare. I want there to be options at least I want to be able to add riders
Walt Sorg 18:00
Well, that makes you a minority and within the Democratic Party in the blue wall states, the Kaiser Family Foundation and cook Political Report had a poll out in the field about a week ago on Medicare for all conducted in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. 62% of democratic voters in those states like the idea of Medicare for all that eliminates private insurance 62% of swing voters say it's a bad idea. And that is the critical number. I think it's the swing voters. Obviously I don't at this point as torn as the country is. I really don't care what the republicans say about this issue. But with the swing voters I think is really important. And I've been saying for quite a while that Medicare for all, even though I personally liked the idea. I think it's bad politics.
Christine Barry 18:42
Yeah, I just don't know enough about Medicare for all but I do know that Medicare for all can't possibly give you all of the options that you might want to have access to. So if you could do a base of you know, everybody has universal access to this level of care and It's affordable for even the lowest incomes, but then you could buy riders from private insurance companies or something. I think that's a good idea.
Walt Sorg 19:08
Yeah. Another point though, from the same poll in those four states, both Democrats and independents said by a wide margin, the number one issue is not health care. It's defeating Donald Trump. And that's the issue that's going to decided in the swing states. And right now it's very, very close. The last polling I saw in Wisconsin had Trump leading most of the candidates in Michigan, it looks like that. We're going to swing back to our to our roots and go democratic. But you know, we talked about Mike Pence coming. And the obviously the Trump campaign believes that Michigan is critical to their plans, getting another visit from Mike Pence, who seems like he lives here. And I know they're pushing it hard. I'm on the trump email list for fundraising, because I find it really entertaining. I've received I think six emails so far offering me free tickets to go to his rally over in Holland.
Christine Barry 19:55
Do you order those free tickets so that there can be some empty seats?
Walt Sorg 19:59
no They oversell it. It's just like the what the airline? Yeah, it's just a motivator to get people to show up to the thing. They'll have a full audience. But the fact that they're going over to West Michigan, I think it's pretty interesting.
Christine Barry 20:11
So we were speculating on who might be on stage with them. I think there's probably going to be a DeVos. Maybe they'll be a Meijer.
Walt Sorg 20:19
Justin Amash will not be on the stage, that's for darn sure. But I think the other one that they're really worried about is Fred Upton, who's not been a total supporter of the President, but they certainly don't want to lose that seat. I find it interesting that Sarah Huckabee Sanders full time professional liar is going to be back in the state. I'm not sure what she brings to the table, but she wants to be governor of Arkansas. So it's probably a good idea for to practice campaigning. They're going to be doing a bus tour with stops in Portage, Holland and Grand Rapids, which used to be solid republican territory. I suspect that Holland still is but Grand Rapids is definitely an area where the Republican Party is having problems.
Christine Barry 20:54
Well, it'll be good for them, probably to rally the base a little bit in those areas, which might be a little depressed? I don't know. I haven't seen any any polling on how motivated the basis but it'll be good for them. It'll be good for them to have a woman with pence. I think. I don't know that Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a rock star, but
Walt Sorg 21:16
She is for the base. I think because she's solid for the president. What I think is more telling us if they do a heavy campaigning for Peter Meijer over in Grand Rapids, I think that actually helps the democrats because it splits away some Republican votes that might otherwise have gone to Justin Amash.
Christine Barry 21:32
Maybe I tell you, what, if if we don't win that seat, I hope it's Justin and I don't like any of his votes on hardly anything. But it is so refreshing to see somebody who has credibility being kind of this. I don't know, constitutional guy talking about the president that way.
Walt Sorg 21:52
He's also very open. One thing I've admired about him in the past is that he always every time he voted in Congress, he would post on Facebook. How he voted and why? on anything? Yeah, very open about it.
Christine Barry 22:04
People like that.
Walt Sorg 22:05
They should. Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg, we mentioned earlier spending a boatload of cash that includes nearly a million dollars in the state of Michigan in the first week of his campaign. It must be nice to be worth 55 $60 billion and decide you want to run for President makes it fundraising a lot easier.
Christine Barry 22:23
Well, I'll tell you what if I was worth that much money, I would not be running for president because I don't want that job. But I would love to start get out the vote efforts and some door knocking efforts and that kind of thing. And I think that's where as money is better spent, but Michigan media along with everybody else likes to get the this ad money so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. But I'm so sick of people jumping in the race and spending money. You know, Bloomberg is not going to be President. I don't know that. I mean, have you seen anything about any kind of numbers of how electable he is perceived to be? We talked about a poll last week where, you know, the democratic base what they thought of the different candidates, and then who they thought was electable was a second question. And really there was I think Biden was the only one that got over the 50%. Mark.
Walt Sorg 23:13
Well, it'll be interesting to see as that goes on. I'm not sure that that this whole billionaire politician experience is going very far. Because you've got here in Michigan, we just talked about Peter Meijer running for congress over in Grand Rapids. He, of course comes from a family that is worth billions of dollars the Meijer family, you've got Tom steyer, who's been out there spending his money for a long time. And of course, you got the jerk in the White House, who allegedly is a billionaire as well. is America ready for another billionaire president? I don't think so. Although Michael Bloomberg makes a good point. One, he's worth a hell of a lot more money than any of the others. He's worth more money than just about everybody in the world. And also he has got a solid political record. His problem is that his solid political record was mostly run up when he was a Republican.
Christine Barry 23:55
If somebody has a net worth, that's it just even in the millions They can do whatever they want. When they're in an office. You know, I believe, obviously, you've seen Trump pull in all of the people who he surrounds himself with, they do whatever they want, and it just doesn't matter. And they kind of don't care where they land. I don't think. And Bloomberg, like I mentioned last week, Bloomberg saying he wasn't going to accept donations. I think he will eventually but he, you know, telling me you're not accepting donations because you're going to self fund and that being a virtue of your campaign, to me is a little off putting
Walt Sorg 24:30
exactly what Trump said though. He said he wasn't going to take the contributions. He lied. But he said he was going to self fund his campaign. Yeah.
Christine Barry 24:38
He's appealing to a different base, though. You know, his he's talking to different people who think that that made him a better person. I don't think it makes you a better person to have money.
Walt Sorg 24:48
Yeah, makes you feel sorry for Mitt Romney. The poor guy is only worth $600 million. He was a pauper running for president is a millionaire.
We all know the saga of Trump University. Donald Trump promised the world to his students or his marks, as I call them. He collected a lot of money from them and basically gave them next to nothing. In the end, Trump agreed to pay back $25 million, which would have been a major scandal for any other president. But for him, it's just part of the story. Now we have Trump University, the sequel. This one is based in the suburbs of Detroit, the curriculum, deporting foreigners. Christine, what do you think?
Christine Barry 25:29
Well, I think that Trump University at least had classes. This particular University, which is the University of Farmington did not offer any classes. It was incorporated in Michigan in January of 2016. By a Department of Homeland Security. It marketed graduate programs in technology and computer science, but it was a completely fake University. It was set up as a ruse to discover an act on student visa fraud. It was 100% staff with Special Agents in Homeland Security. So it was an undercover operations basically what it was
Walt Sorg 26:05
I see a lot of outrage on the left about this thing being a sting that was set up by the government to entrap people. I really don't have a problem with it. Because the people that they entrapped were people that had no intention of going to college. They just wanted to have an excuse to keep their visas.
Christine Barry 26:20
I think that that's something that we don't know for sure yet. Because –
Walt Sorg 26:25
Well if you don't have classes, and you don't have a campus or you don't have faculty, you don't have a football team. What kind of university is it any way that you're going to enroll when, you know going in? There's nothing there except the tuition bill and the visa.
Christine Barry 26:41
Well, according to the students, that's not what they were told. Here is what the students have to say. And first of all, the Detroit Free Press published some information about emails that were sent from the university to students. The email communications claimed that the University of Farmington is a nationally accredited institution authorized to enroll international students by the US Department of Homeland Security, which means that if you're on a student visa and the Department of Homeland Security says this university is okay for you to go to, to stay on that visa, U of Farmington was being advertised as one of those universities. It was registered with the state of Michigan as a university. A national accreditation agency listed it as accredited now that was as part of this sting. It was also listed on the ice website as an approved University under the student and Exchange Visitor program. And here's how it works. Students paid $100 for an application fee and the next day you get your admission letter along with your visa transfer form. And students who inquired as to why there weren't any classes were told that the classes would be held some students so there were over 600 students enrolled at this university. Some of those students transferred out legitimately because they realize this was not there weren't any classes being held, some thought that they were able to just work full time and not take classes in that physical location because the university also said that they recognized working students. You know, some of the students, like I said, transferred out to get by getting their visa transferred, some couldn't get the university to release the visa. So it was a little bit more than a ruse. But I don't think that I think some of the students were taking advantage just just trying to stay in the country on a student visa with documentation saying they were going to school when they weren't, but some of them had a little more complicated situation. Some of them were trying to get h1 b visas, and they couldn't. So they decided to get a second master's degree. I mean, there were there are a number of stories here. And it's kind of a mixed bag. There are eight recruiters being prosecuted. There were just citizens who We're trying to lure students to the university in exchange for like kickbacks or cash or whatever from the university. They're charged with a pay to stay scheme. So they are the United States says that those eight individuals knew what they were doing. They aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the US illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they were not. So those eight people may, you know, may be found criminally guilty of doing something illegal, but most of these students I get the impression that they, you know, they were lured there, some of them probably know exactly what they were doing. Some of them probably just were not diligent and digging around for information on this university.
Walt Sorg 29:48
And meanwhile, the United States government was collecting around $12,000 a year in tuition for these people, which of course gave them nothing other than an arrest record.
Christine Barry 29:57
And, you know, a lot of these students took out loans from For that, and then we're not able to transfer or not able to leave when they wanted to. Now again, I keep saying, you know, I don't have hard numbers on how many people were trying to get a second Master's versus how many people tried to transfer and that kind of thing. But when you look at reporting on this, that's started in January and really goes through the most recent article over this weekend. You can see there are just several different types of students who are at this university. And some of this is really troubling, that ice is just, you know, going through with these arrests, and this is not the first time that that Department of Homeland Security has set up a fake university to try to root out student visa fraud, but it is the first time that students were arrested. So it's, in that way, kind of kind of ugly.
Walt Sorg 30:53
I think the bottom line of the story is we know our immigration situation is a mess. We need foreigners to come to this country and become Americans, especially those that are seeking higher education. And we really, somehow, some way, they got to figure out how to clean up this mess because right now it is it's horrific, what is going on? We're not even accepting refugees anymore. The Trump administration has completely shut that door. We are torturing families basically down at the southwest border. And then you've got this situation. The bottom line is we've really got to fix our immigration system, it is something that doesn't make us look good in the world, nor does it do any good for America.
Christine Barry 31:32
Yeah, I totally agree. And it has to be a solution that addresses not just the individual immigrant but the companies, the employers who are luring these people here, whether intentionally or not, you cannot accidentally employ an undocumented immigrant. There are rules in place that say you get this information from them. You either see their valid visa or their whatever they have to demonstrate that they can be here legally, if they're being employed. You know, generally It's on the employer to make sure that they're legal. And the employer just doesn't seem to be held accountable.
Walt Sorg 32:07
There is a form that employers have to fill out for every employee. I think it's form I nine, which certifies that the person is legally able to work in the United States,
Christine Barry 32:17
it should be not just the immigrant It should also be the companies that employ but it seemed to me like we focus strictly on the immigrant or on people who help the immigrants and never the employers who are happy to receive this low paid low wage group of workers.
Walt Sorg 32:38
And that's going to do it for this week on the podcast. We welcome your comments, complaints, suggestions, General insults, just send us one of those electronic notes via the Google machine at Mipolicast@gmail.com Christine is loaded up our website as well with links, videos, tweets in general good stuff on this week's topics. This you can head over to Michiganpolicast.com
Christine Barry 32:59
and It's time for us to get ready for cyber monday and Giving Tuesday. Thanks for letting us spend a portion of your day in your ear. Amy will be back with us next week. And for Walt Sorg. I'm Christine, Barry and Barry out
Transcribed by https://otter.ai