US Mission India: Oh dear, did she really call those ICE anklets "hip and happening?"

This is a double trouble news.  Apparently on January 28, Fox News reported that every year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials close hundreds of sham “schools” serving as fronts for illegal immigration operations.  More from New America post:

And when they do, thousands of foreign nationals, who paid “tuition” in exchange for student visas, are left in a helpless situation, and founders of these alleged “schools” are put behind bars.

The latest school in the news is Tri-Valley University (TVU) in Pleasanton, California, near San Francisco — which was raided by ICE agents and shut down last week. According to this which cited the Fox report, the raid included a sting operation on school founder, Susan Su. Federal prosecutors say TVU wasn’t a school at all, but a scheme to defraud the government — and it could be the biggest of its kind.

In a related note, citing a federal complaint filed in a California court last week, Deccan Herald reports that TVU helped foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status. The university is said to have 1,555 students. As many as 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals. The report also states that investigations by ICE found that while students were admitted to various residential and on-line courses of the university and on paper lived in California, but in reality they “illegally” worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Some of the students in California were reportedly radio tagged, that is, made to wear electronic anklets and must also now deal with their immigration status in the U.S. reported that “Over 1,500 Indian students, majority of them from Andhra Pradesh, are facing an uncertain future after Tri-Valley University in California was shut down for violation of visa rules. The students face the danger of being deported and the US authorities have radio tagged some of them to track them, evoking protest from the Indian government.

Here is what TVU says about its Accreditation and Licensure:

Tri-Valley University is accreditted by International Association of Bible Colleges and Seminaries (IABCS). Some individual academic programs also apply for specific accreditation, such as the J. D. program is seeking provisional accreditation status with American Bar Association (ABA); Pharm. D. program plans to seek Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) accreditation. Tri-Valley University is licensed to operate in Pleasanton, California. According to State of California Education Code with the Bureau for Private Post-Secondary and Vocation Education, California has state religious exemption provision. Tri-Valley University is also authorized by the Federal Government to admit international students and issuing I20 for F-1 Visa.

We don’t know how that school pass through the fine tooth comb of DHS/ICE.

That’s a big enough headache already for the Feds, but that’s only half the trouble brewing.

Here’s the other half of the trouble.

Juliet Wurr, the Public Affairs Officer at the US Consulate in Hyderabad was quoted by local reports as saying that the electronic tagging of the Indian students in the US was a “hip and happening” thing and wondered why Indians were agitated over it.

‘It’s funny people getting upset about this. I don’t know about your servants…but my servant has big heavy silver anklets…that look a heck of a lot more uncomfortable and binding.’

Oh, dear! We cringed down to our oversize pajamas!  Did a Public Affairs Officer really say that? Seriously?

Unfortunately, she really did.

(Sorry, the YouTube video we originally posted here yesterday has now been removed by user.)

Let’s try this clip from NDTV:

She must have been thinking of domestic diva, Martha Stewart
(did not like it), Paris Hilton (and her house arrest accessories), Lindsay Lohan (hers detects booze) and other American celebrities who had a run in with the law. But what’s “hot” or “hip” is in the eye of the beholder; gets complicated when transplanted into a different culture.         

The Indian External Affairs Ministry reportedly  lodged a strong protest with the US Embassy in New Delhi over this “unacceptable” comments.

So then — US Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Lu expressed regrets over the comments (we think Ambassador Roemer is in the big ambo powwow in DC). Mr. Lu was also reported as having asked the US official to publicly apologize.

And now, Ms. Wurr has apologized quoted by here.
‘I apologise deeply because I would never want to insult or hurt the feelings of any Indian, particularly young people who are going through a very trying time now in this situation,’ Wurr said Tuesday night.

One very important lesson here, perhaps?  There is nothing/nothing funny about anything when you speak for Uncle Sam. Glad we don’t speak for any uncles.
US Mission India’s statement on the Tri-Valley case is here.

Obama’s Reagan Moment – In Egypt, Ambassador Frank Wisner as Paul Laxalt??

The news that retired Ambassador Frank Wisner was on his way to Egypt could not have been good news for those at the presidential palace in Cairo.


The New York Times reported that former U.S. ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner arrived in Cairo and delivered Obama’s message. The Times said Wisner told Mubarak that Obama was not sending a blunt demand to step aside now, but offering firm counsel that he should make way for a reform process that would culminate in free and fair elections in September for a new Egyptian leader.

The back channel message, authorized directly by Obama, appeared to tip the administration beyond the delicate balancing act it has performed in the last week — resisting calls for Mubarak to step down even as it has called for an “orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, the Times said.

Via NYT:

Mr. Wisner, who had been expected to leave Egypt on Tuesday but decided to extend his stay, is among the United States’s most experienced diplomats, and a friend of Mr. Mubarak. His mission was to “keep a conversation going,” according to a close friend of Mr. Wisner.

As a result, this person said, the administration’s first message to the Egyptian leader was not that he had to leave office, but rather that his time in office was quickly coming to a close. Mr. Wisner, who consulted closely with the White House, is expected to be the point person dealing with Mr. Mubarak as the situation evolves, and perhaps as the administration’s message hardens.

In 1986, it took all of 20 days for the Reagan Administration to defriend Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.

Quick recap:

  • On 11 February in 1986, four days after a fraudulent Philippine election, then President Reagan blamed both sides causing a huge public outcry.
  • By 14 February, Reagan’s special ambassador, Philip Habib arrived and met with Filipino leaders in Manila.
  • On 15 February, as the Philippine National Assembly was about to declare Marcos the winner, Reagan questioned the credibility of the election.
  • On February 22, the country’s Defense Secretary and Armed Forces Chief of Staff withdrew their support for the Marcos Government
  • On 24 February, at 5 a.m. Monday, the White House issued a statement saying: “A solution to this crisis can only be achieved through a peaceful transition to a new government.”
  • On 25 February, there were two presidential inaugurations – one for Corazon Aquino and another for Ferdinand Marcos
  • At 9 o’clock the evening of 25 February, the Marcos family and tag-alongs were on their way to Clark Air Force Base.
  • 26 February 1986, Marcos and his party arrived in Hawaii.

More of the blow by blow account of those 20 days in February here.

On February 26, 1986, David Hess reported on Sen. Paul Laxalt‘s (R., Nev.) chore for then President Reagan at the very end of the Marcos regime in the Philippines: 

About 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sen. Paul Laxalt (R., Nev.) bluntly told Ferdinand E. Marcos by telephone: “I think you should cut and cut cleanly. I think the time has come.”

Laxalt, in advising Marcos to surrender the Philippine presidency to his rival, Corazon C. Aquino, insisted later that his remarks – unbound by diplomatic niceties – were his own and not those of President Reagan. But at a briefing yesterday, White House spokesman Larry Speakes acknowledged that Laxalt’s counsel reflected the President’s sentiments. has more in The Philippines Anatomy of a Revolution:

Was it true, as U.S. Ambassador Stephen Bosworth had told him, that President Reagan was calling for a “peaceful transition to a new government” in the Philippines? While the two men talked, Laxalt said later, it became apparent that Marcos was “hanging on, looking for a life preserver. He was a desperate man clutching at straws.” He asked whether the reference to a “peaceful transition” meant he should stay on until 1987, when his current term was originally supposed to end, and he wondered whether some sort of power-sharing arrangement with the Philippine opposition could be worked out.

Marcos spoke of his fear that his palace was about to be attacked, but seemed determined to stay on as President. At Marcos’ request, Laxalt then went to the White House, where he discussed the conversation with Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz. The President repeated his desire for a peaceful, negotiated settlement in the Philippines and said once more that Marcos would be welcome if he decided to seek sanctuary in the U.S. But Reagan said he thought the idea of power sharing was impractical and that it would be undignified for Marcos to stay on as a “consultant.”

At 4:15 p.m. Laxalt called Marcos, who immediately asked whether Reagan wanted him to step down. Laxalt said the President was not in a position to make that kind of demand. Then Marcos put the question directly to Laxalt: What should he do? Replied the Senator: “Mr. President, I’m not bound by diplomatic restraint. I’m talking only for myself. I think you should cut and cut cleanly. The time has come.” There was a long pause that to Laxalt seemed interminable. Finally he asked, “Mr. President, are you still there?” Marcos replied, in a subdued voice, “Yes, I’m still here. I am so very, very disappointed.”

In Manila it was after 5 o’clock in the morning of the longest day of Ferdinand Marcos’ life. Before it was over, he would attend his final inauguration ceremony, a foolish charade carried out in the sanctuary of his Malacanang Palace. That evening, a ruler no more, he would flee with his family and retainers aboard four American helicopters to Clark Air Base on the first leg of a flight that would take him to Guam, Hawaii and exile.

Read more here.

Five years later, the Philippine Senate refused to ratify the treaty on one of the largest US defense facility in the world.

We don’t know what will happen to Egypt tomorrow, but it’s not totally unfamiliar. 

At 6:45 EST, President Obama had this remarks on the situation in Egypt.  Video here.


State Dept Issues New Travel Warning: Avoid Egypt Travel; Consider Leaving as Soon as You Can Safely Do So

Via | On February 1, 2011
On February 1, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from Egypt.  This replaces the Travel Warning for Egypt dated January 28, 2011.  The U.S. Department of State continues to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to Egypt at this time.  U.S. citizens should consider leaving Egypt as soon as they can safely do so, due to ongoing political and social unrest.  Large-scale demonstrations with the potential for violence continue in several areas of Cairo, Alexandria, and other parts of the country, and rail and road travel has been disrupted between cities, and between city centers and airports.  Disruptions in communications, including internet service, also continue.  The Government of Egypt may also disrupt mobile phone service during future demonstrations.  The Government of Egypt modified the curfew times and locations; now 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. throughout Egypt until further notice.  U.S. citizens should obey curfew orders and remain indoors during curfew hours.
U.S. citizens currently in Egypt should monitor international and local media to stay abreast of announcements from the embassy.  Due to the fluid nature of the situation and the volume of phone calls to the embassy, U.S. citizens should not wait for a reply from the embassy or the Department of State before traveling to the nearest airport.  Cairo airport is open and operating, but flights may be delayed or cancelled, and transport to the airport is disrupted, due to the protests.  Travelers should remain in contact with their airlines or tour operators concerning flight schedules, and arrange to arrive at the airport well before curfew hours. 
The U.S. Department of State is making arrangements to provide charter air transportation to safe haven locations in Europe of U.S. citizens and eligible dependents who wish to depart Egypt.  This assistance will be provided on a reimbursable basis, as required by U.S. law.  U.S. citizens who travel on U.S. Government-arranged transport will be expected to make their own onward travel plans from the safe haven location; currently: Larnaca, Cyprus; Istanbul, Turkey; Frankfurt, Germany; and Athens, Greece.  Flights to evacuation points began departing Cairo on Monday, January 31.  There will be a limited number of seats available on future evacuation flights.  Priority will be given to persons with medical emergencies or severe medical conditions.  Persons interested in departing Egypt via U.S. Government-arranged chartered transportation should proceed to one of the airports in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, or Aswan. 
U.S. citizens with a valid passport wishing to depart from Cairo may proceed to the Hajj Terminal/VIP Hall (Terminal 1, Hall 4) of the airport after curfew is lifted, currently 8:00 a.m.  For U.S. citizens attempting to depart via Alexandria, airports are all open and there are commercial flights available to U.S. citizens.  If traveling from Luxor, Alexandria, or Aswan airport, be sure to have a confirmed ticket and know the terminal you need before traveling to the airport.  There are two operational airports in Alexandria:

Primary airport: Borg El Arab – two terminals:
-One newer where commercial flights are departing.
-Older terminal where chartered flights are departing and some commercial flights.
Secondary airport: El Nouzha – older, under reconstruction
Passengers must have a ticket in hand, or arrange to purchase a ticket via cell phone or internet.  Tickets are NOT being sold at the airport.
Immediate family members (spouses and children) who are not U.S. citizens must be documented for entry into the safe haven country and/or the United States, if that is their final destination.  Travelers who are not U.S. citizens but are accompanying a U.S. citizen immediate family member (child, spouse, parent of minor child) should have a valid passport.  U.S. citizens seeking evacuation should be prepared for a substantial wait at the airport.  Travelers are advised to bring food, water, diapers, and other necessary toiletries with them to the airport.  Travelers will not be able to choose their destination, and they are permitted only one piece of luggage per person.  Travelers may not bring pets.
In the event of demonstrations, U.S. citizens in Egypt should remain in their residences or hotels until the demonstrations subside.  Security forces may block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, and U.S. citizens should not attempt to come to the U.S. Embassy or the Tahrir Square area during that time.  Demonstrations have degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in injuries and extensive property damage.  While demonstrations have not been directed toward Westerners, U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security.  The U.S. Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations, as even peaceful ones can quickly become unruly and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse.  If caught unexpectedly near a demonstration, U.S. citizens should obey instructions from police and leave the area as quickly as possible.  U.S. citizens resident in Egypt should monitor local news broadcasts and U.S. citizen visitors should ask tour guides and hotel officials about any planned demonstrations in the locations they plan to visit.  U.S. citizens should carry identification and a cell phone that works in Egypt.
The U.S. Embassy will be open only for emergency services to U.S. citizens until further notice.  As always, any change to Embassy hours will be posted on the Embassy website.  Family members of U.S. citizens in Egypt may also enroll them in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  U.S. citizens in Egypt, or their loved ones, may contact the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo via email, or at 1-202-501-4444.  Please follow the directions on the Embassy website for all other consular inquiries.
Current information on travel and security in Egypt may be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Egypt, as well as the Worldwide Caution.

Original travel warning posted here.

US Embassy Egypt: Leaving Not Optional, Now on Ordered Departure

About five flights are estimated to depart Cairo today, Tuesday, February 1st, carrying American citizens (employees, dependents and private citizens) on State Dept-chartered flights. Three flights are reportedly going to Istanbul with one flight each going to Athens and Cyprus.

More flights are expected to happen tomorrow, February 2.

Check out the State Dept’s official Egypt Crisis page here.

All previous alerts and advisories on Egypt are here.

In an announcement dated today, February 1st, the State Department has also declared US Embassy Egypt on Ordered Departure for non-emergency personnel and dependents:

Ordered Departure Declared for Egypt

On February 1, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. Government personnel and their families from Egypt in light of recent events. The Department of State will continue to facilitate the evacuation of U.S. citizens who require assistance.  Cairo airport is open and operating, but flights may be disrupted and transport to the airport may be disrupted due to the protests. U.S. citizens in Egypt who require assistance, or those who are concerned that their U.S. citizen loved one in Egypt may require assistance, should contact the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo at:, or at 1-202-501-4444. Please follow the directions on the Embassy website for all other consular inquiries.

Departure order only applies to US Government staff and family members under chief of mission authority.

So if FS family members had an option to stay in Cairo, yesterday, that is no longer the case today.

What is the difference between an authorized departure and an ordered departure? The State Department, as usual, is diplomatic even when explaining the fine line to employees:

“Authorized departure merely allows the Chief of Mission greater flexibility in determining which employees or groups of employees may depart, and avoids any negative connotation that might be attached to the use of the term “evacuation.” Since the law uses the terms synonymously, there is no difference in benefits now in application of the regulations. Note: Once the Under Secretary of State for Management (“M”) approves the evacuation status for post—either authorized or ordered—the 180-day clock “begins ticking” (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).”

The Department of Defense is more upfront in its joint publication:

“The ambassador has determined that the situation has deteriorated to a point that family members and certain employees should leave post for their safety. Ordered departure is not optional; family members and employees will be issued orders to leave. When the ordered departure status is terminated, official evacuees must return to the post.”

The list of employees to remain normally includes those needed to manage the evacuation of US citizens – consular officers, press folks, possibly the budget and logistics people. Not sure if there is a list publicly available anywhere.    

Related resources:

Frequently Asked Questions on Evacuation (US Employees and Family Members/MOH)

Department of State Standardized Regulations (DSSR)

FS blog posts on Evacuation:

Sherwood Family Nonsense | Hello from Athens (Evacuated from Cairo)

Small bits | Evac: 36 of 365 (Evacuated from Mexican border post)

Four Globetrotters | It Hit the Fan (Evacuated from Tunis)

Kelly Armstrong in The Embassy Wife | So, what’s an ordered departure really like?