A 17-year-old Palestinian boy preparing to go to Harvard had his visa revoked and got deported because of anti-US Facebook posts shared by his friends.
Ismail B. Ajjawi, from Tyre, Lebanon, arrived at Boston Logan International Airport last week ready for his classes to begin on September 3, only to be deported a short while later.
Immigration officers stopped Ajjawi and subjected him to hours of questioning, asking about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon.
Michael S. McCarthy, a spokesperson for the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), said CBP found Ajjawi ‘inadmissible’ to the country.
According to the Harvard Crimson, he said:
Applicants must demonstrate they are admissible into the U.S. by overcoming ALL grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds.
This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection.
An incoming Harvard freshman, a 17 year old Palestinian boy, had his visa cancelled & was deported because US officials searched his phone/laptop & said his friends had social media posts that were critical of the US.
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) August 27, 2019
According to a statement written by the 17-year-old, as per the Crimson, at one point the authorities left him to search his phone and computer. Ajjawi explained officers searched his devices for approximately five hours before questioning him about his friends’ social media activity.
His statement read:
When I asked every time to have my phone back… the officer refused and told me to sit back in [my] position and not move at all.
After the five 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.
The student argued he had never interacted with the anti-US comments and that he should not be held responsible for someone else’s post, saying ‘I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics’.
However, the officials cancelled the teen’s visa and deported him on Friday night (August 23).
University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain said Harvard staff are working to resolve the issue, saying:
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.
Ajjawi, who is now back in Lebanon, is in touch with a lawyer and hopes to resolve his visa issues so he can arrive in the US before his classes begin.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.