An incoming Harvard freshman from Palestine was interrogated by immigration officials for five painstaking hours then had his visa rescinded after landing in Boston because they found his friends on social media shared anti-US political posts.
Ismail B. Ajjawi, a 17-year-old Palestinian student who lives in Tyre, Lebanon, landed at Boston Logan International airport on Friday night in anticipation of starting his freshman year at Harvard University.
But his Ivy League career, in which he intended to study in Chemical and Physical Biology, ended before it even began when his visa was revoked and he was deported back home.
Ajjawi said that after landing, immigration officers subjected him hours of questioning and searched his phone and computer, and confronted him about friends social media posts sharing their political views that spoke against the U.S., he told the Harvard Crimson.
Ajjawi says he spent a total of eight hours in Boston, which has nearest airport to the Cambridge, Massachusetts university, before he was forced to leave.
After landing he and several other international students faced questioning from immigration officials.
But Ajjawi was held back while his peers were allowed to go.
He alleges that an immigration officer continued to question him about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon.
That officer then asked the student to unlock his phone and laptop and searched them for five hours, Ajjawi alleges.
The officer then asked him about his friends social media activity saying she found posts sharing political views that were against the US.
‘When I asked every time to have my phone back so I could tell them about the situation, the officer refused and told me to sit back in [my] position and not move at all,’ Ajjawi said.
‘After the 5 hours ended, she called me into a room, and she started screaming at me. She said that she found people posting political points of view that oppose the US on my friend[s] list,’ he added.
Ajjawi replied saying that the political posts were not his own.
‘I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn’t like, share or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post,’ he said.
‘I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics,’ he added.
Despite his defense, the immigration officer canceled Ajjawi’s visa and told him he would be deported.
Ajjawi is now in Lebanon and in contact with a lawyer and the university with the hopes of resolving his visa before classes start next Tuesday September 3.
U. S. Customs and Border Protection told the Crimson they found Ajjawi ‘inadmissible’ to the country.
‘This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection.’
Harvard says they’re in contact with the family and working to bring him back to campus.
‘The University is working closely with the student’s family and appropriate authorities to resolve this matter so that he can join his classmates in the coming days,’ a university spokesman said.
Harvard’s International Office employs immigration lawyers who work to resolve visa-related issues international students encounter. Ajjawi says he’s been in contact with Harvard International Office Director of Immigration Services Maureen Martin.
He was coming to Harvard on a scholarship given by AMIDEAST, a nonprofit, which is now aiding him with legal assistance.