NEW YORK (TIP): Alarmed over the detection of fake US Green Cards submitted to obtain Travel Documents to India, the Indian Consulate in New York have brought to matter to the notice of the Immigration authorities and the police who have launched an investigation in to the working of Service Providers to the Indian Consulate here. They are said to be examining their possible nexus with people and agencies involved in the racket.
There are two official service providers appointed by the Indian Embassy in the US. One is BLS International which provides Passport services, and the other is Cox & King which provides Visa services, among others. There have been complaints against BLS International ever since it started operations some years ago. It is reported that almost every Consulate, and Embassy of India in the US, have expressed dissatisfaction with the working of the company but it continues to be in business. BLS is believed to have strong political connections in India and its patrons there ensured the company remains in business in spite of all adverse reports.
It has been known for some time now that there are agents who claim to provide services to seekers of travel documents, for a price. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong in it. However, these agents also indulged in faking documents to get travel documents to those not eligible for obtaining those documents, for some reason. In such cases, these agents charged hefty fees, from $3500.00 upwards, according to some who paid the sum. They disclosed the information to The Indian Panorama on condition of anonymity. A gentleman from Queens who came from India sought political asylum here and went on to become a citizen, made fun of the Consulate authorities who had told him that he would not get visa to travel to India because he had sought political asylum. An official in the Consulate explained to him that since he had in his asylum petition claimed that his life was in danger in India, there was ample justification to deny him visa to travel to India. He flaunted his US Passport with the Indian Visa and said he got it through a Visa and Passport Service Center for “only $5000.00”. And he is not the only one. Every day there are people visiting these centers and other agents to obtain travel documents to India.
It is mostly Indians. There are two categories. One, those who came illegally and are still illegal here. They want passport. Then there are those who came from India, sought asylum here and ultimately got a status here and want visa to travel to India. As for the first category, they have been living in hope that one day they will get a status. They expected a repeat of 1986 Reagan amnesty. They expected President George W Bush would grant legal status to nearly 11 million illegal aliens. Then they pinned their hope on President Barack Obama who sounded passionate about comprehensive Immigration Reforms and giving dignity to millions who lived in shadows. But it has been decades of wait and nothing happening.
Meanwhile, those who had sought asylum without knowing that it will foreclose their option to visit home, grew restless. They had made money here. They have been supporting families back home. But there was no way for them to unite with their families. One can easily understand their agony. They were keen to unite with their families from whom they had wrenched themselves years ago, simply to make a better living in the US, “the land of opportunity”. They had left behind parents who have grown old now and needed care. They had left behind small children who are grown up now and hunger for father’s love. There were some who lost a family member and wanted to travel home. There were some who wanted to travel home to bless their children getting married. There were some who wanted to visit home to share the joy of the family on the arrival of a grandchild. But they could not go.
I recall Consul General of India, Mr. Dnyaneshwar Mulay’s visit to a local Gurdwara a year or so ago. The community gave him a rousing welcome. He, too, was happy to be among the Sikh community, which has the largest number of asylees in the US, and elsewhere in the world, too. He was asked why the Consulate was denying passport and visa to the asylees. Mr. Mulay explained that it was a rule framed by the government of India and that it was for the government to change the rules. Obviously, the Consul General’s reply did not satisfy them nor did it solve their problem.
The Sikh community in particular has been sore that every time a minister or a politician came from India, they pleaded with the visiting dignitary to lobby with the government for a change of rule and each promised to do so but nobody ever bothered after leaving the US.
So, what would they do? Consulates would not give them passport. Consulate would not give them visa. And some felt compelled to travel. So, they looked for someone to help out. And, as we always have in every community, people intelligent enough to play on the weakness of others, we had a group of “agents” and “middlemen” waiting to help the helpless. Of course, it was for a price. These agents knew seekers of passport or visa had enough money and, given their desire to make it to “home” they would be ready to pay any price.
Thus started, a long time ago, the business of passport and visa services. Of course, the operators then did not put up sign boards. It was known by word of mouth who the agents were and people would go over to them. Sometimes, the agents themselves would approach prospective customers. It went on for years. The network was very wide. Some 6 years ago, while I was in Sacramento, a travel agent undertook to get a man a passport from New York Consulate. The Indian Panorama has the information that there is a strong network of agents all across the US who work in close cooperation with each other and with the service providers, without the help of whom it will be well-nigh impossible to do the thriving business on such a large scale. In fact, it is a multimillion dollar industry and New York has the distinction of being the headquarters of this business.
For years now, various organizations of Indian Americans and individuals have been from time to time, bringing to the notice of the New York Consulate the various malpractices going on with regard to passport and visa services. And every time, a consulate would ask for evidence. I myself raised the issue in formal interviews of the Consul General Mr. Mulay and also in private conversations a couple of times and was stonewalled with the question of evidence. I must give credit to Mr. Mulay that once he came to know about a Consul’s involvement in unethical conduct, he saw to it that the official was sent back to India, even though the said Consul had his powerful patrons in Delhi.
And Mr. Mulay and his deputy Manoj Mohapatra must be congratulated that they took a courageous step to bring to the notice of US Immigration authorities the issue of submission of fake US Green Cards to obtain travel documents to India. Instead of sleeping over the matter, they realized the far reaching and damaging consequences of the travel documents falling in the hands of the wrong people. They probably had a David Coleman Headley in mind.
Whatever, when they detected at their level 7 suspicious looking US green cards, they sent the green cards to the US Immigration for verification. US Immigration found 6 of them were fake. And then the Immigration authorities swung in to action.
An Immigration official visited the Consulate on last Friday, February 5 to speak with the Consulate authorities. Accompanied by the Consulate officials, the officer from the Immigration visited the offices of BLS International, located at 28 West 30th Street, Suite 202, New York, NY10001. As the official reached there he found in the BLS complex the Notary who had notarized the “fake Green Cards”. The officer asked him a couple of questions and went in to speak with the BLS officials about the presence of the Notary in the building. It was when the Notary, reported to be named Husain, picked up his stuff and bolted.
The US Immigration is now believed to be looking in to the issue not as a solitary affair of faking of some US green cards by just a few to obtain travel documents to India but as a much wider racket, involving many all over the US.
Meanwhile, the local police are separately looking in to the case of “fraud”. Till the time of writing this report it is not known if any arrest has been made in this connection.
Reports pouring in to the office of The Indian Panorama suggest a fear wave has gripped those running the passport and visa centers who are keeping away from their offices and not meeting new customers. Some are said to be fearing sting operations.
The Indian Panorama which is a community service and information providing medium would like to caution community not to fall a prey to the temptation of easy acquisition of a passport or a visa and avoid any illegal method to acquire a travel document.