Hot Sheet

German exchange students detained at DIA, sent home after being accused of taking U.S. jobs

Author: Kara Mason - August 1, 2017 - Updated: August 4, 2017

iStock image / LKeskinen

Eight German exchange students headed for Salida got a taste of increasing political tensions regarding immigration policy in the U.S. over the weekend.

Before being detained at Denver International Airport, immigration officials “insisted they (the students) were coming in and taking work away from U.S. citizens, which is illegal since they have no work visa,” Susan Masterson, who has coordinated the exchange program for six years, told the Salida Mountain Mail.

Masterson said she was at the airport when the students were detained.

The students that planned on spending three weeks in the southern Colorado mountain town ended up spending Friday night in a detention facility. Meanwhile Masterson said she was in contact with state Rep. Jim Wilson, the governor’s office, Congressman Doug Lamborn’s office and Sen. Michael Bennet’s office.

But none could prevent the students, all 18 years old, from being deported back to Germany. Immigration enforcement officials determined the students were attempting to enter the country on the wrong visa, a tourist visa.

Masterson said she was blown away by the outpouring of support from different agencies. The Mountain Mail reported that Masterson wrote in a letter to the German families Lamborn’s office did everything they could to help, but “nothing could be done.”

“We’ve never had a problem like this before,” Masterson told Colorado Politics, adding that she has connections to the German school the students were coming from and hasn’t had a visa problem any of the years since she began the program.

So, was the incident a result of the contentious political climate surrounding immigration?

“Oh I think so,” Masterson said. “Controls have definitely tightened.”

The students have returned to their families, Masterson said. But “they don’t have a very good impression of our country.”

Masterson said she’s hoping to get the community to send some sort of letter to the students, so they know they’re welcomed in Salida.

Kara Mason

Kara Mason

Kara Mason covers southern Colorado, Aurora and statewide issues for She also writes for the Aurora Sentinel.


  • David Z

    August 1, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Ah, the Trump administration, winning new friends around the world. Well, I guess the students broke the letter of the law and so they have to suffer. May the same principle be held against the Trump family in court next year.

  • wem

    August 1, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    It’s time for this effed up administration and all their ilk to be arrested and thrown down a deep dark hole, never to return.

  • R. Shearer

    August 1, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Over the years, I’ve had to spend thousands of dollars to obtain the proper visa to conduct business internationally. I suppose people cheat and break the law all the time by claiming to be tourists and most probably get away with it, but the laws are there for a reason.

    • Shirrell

      August 5, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      I am so glad you posted his my husband has done the same jumped through all the hoops and earned a right to be here!:)

  • Mary Hagen

    August 3, 2017 at 8:49 am

    It turns out these kids were not held at DIA. They were incarcerated at ICE’s Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora. I’ve hosted kids from this program in the past including the older brother of one of the detainees. I am beyond angry.

    • Michael Schmidt

      August 4, 2017 at 7:52 am

      I only partially understand your anger. Under visa free travel with ESTA no one can take on an internship with or without pay, not even shadow at a place of work. If this work internship or any form of something like an internship is part of this exchange program the participants simply need a proper visa. That has never been different. That was already the law over 20 years ago. And CBP fished people out at the border all the time. The exchange program needs to be set up in accordance with the law and regulations of the specific visa category it wants to fall under. Visa free participation means: no language courses with college/high school credits/ no external work experiences. Pretty simple. Any immigration lawyer would have told you the same. Not to have done this or having ignored such advice is negligence on the organizers’ behalf. These kids are now barred from visa free entry into the US. Might not be let in the next 10 years. Past participants might face the same fate retroactively. Well done. It is really cheap now to put the blame on Trump. I have no interest in defending him, I actually despise him. But I also despise scapegoating and negligence. If I were a parent I’d sue the organizer for damages.

  • Tokmo

    August 3, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Hmmm odd that this didn’t make major headlines!

  • Susan

    August 3, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Ive come to this country on a student visa during the Clinton administration and there was no volunteer work allowed af any kind of student visa and I highly doubt that would have bee allowed on a tourist visa.

  • J. Thomas

    August 5, 2017 at 5:05 am

    Some of the comments are disturbing and unsettling.
    This is not an issue about negligence, cheating or breaking the law.
    It’s about hospitality, openness and US-culture.
    These students, mere youngsters in fact, were looking forward to get in touch with this great land and the good people. They were meant to stay for three weeks, tickets in their knack packs.
    How can anybody come up with the idea they’d take jobs from the American workers?
    What lesson have they learned from America – being detained, being deported?
    They take home no photos of the Rockies, only huge disappointment.
    Well, border control made a their point. Do you seriously think it was worth it?
    Hopefully the authorities will realize the damage done.

    • Shirrell

      August 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      They learned that not telling the total truth will result in deportation.

  • Kelly

    August 5, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    The law is the law. That’s what’s wrong with some people. They don’t believe the laws pertaining to them. Get the right visa come back. Your hatred for anything that’s not liberal is disgusting. Grow up, get a spine. And live the way our laws were meant to be enforced.

    • Joe

      August 7, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Perhaps you meant this message for the interloper in the white house.

  • Kelly

    August 5, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Whom ever set up their visas are at fault. Not the administration.

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