When Houston resident Paul Aker answered the door to find seven armed U.S. marshals waiting to arrest him earlier this month, he was understandably shocked. "I was wondering, why are you here?" Aker told FOX 26 on Tuesday. "I am home, I haven’t done anything. Why are the marshals knocking on my door?" Aker, who was arrested and presented before a federal court, had been targeted by the U.S. Marshals over a (gather yourself before reading this) 29-year-old student loan in the amount of (gather yourself again before reading this next part) $1,500.
"You’d have to be made of stone not to feel for these students," Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education, told the Guardian of the recent headlines-making Corinthian Colleges scandal and its impact on the current state of student loan programs. "Some of these schools have brought the ethics of payday lending into higher education." As seen in Aker's case, which is (sadly) far from unique, federal resources are being used to essentially carry out the duties one would usually attribute to a lowly debt collector. This seemingly ridiculous allowance, as noted by Rep. Gene Green, was made possible thanks to Congress just a few short years ago.
According to Green, private debt collection agencies are getting judgments against the owners of these debts (even, apparently, 29-year-old debts) secured in federal court with ease. After a judgment is secured, the agencies are apparently asking for (and being granted preposterous access to) the usage of armed U.S. marshals.
Aker, who was forced to sign a repayment plan for his 29-year-old debt, will sadly not be the last person to be arrested by armed federal agents. In fact, FOX 26 estimates that another 1500 arrest warrants are expected to be issued over unpaid federal student loans in the Houston area alone.