Nearly a week before students at Harvard start classes, 17-year-old incoming Harvard student Ismail B. Ajjawi was deported. The Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon was held at the Boston Logan International Airport for hours of questioning before having his visa canceled.
“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,” wrote Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain in an email.
The Harvard freshman has a scholarship from AMIDEAST, a nonprofit organization which provides cross-cultural and educational opportunities in the Middle East, North Africa, and the US. The organization is now helping Ajjawi with legal assistance.
Ajjawi’s visa was revoked after US Customs and Border Protection found the student “inadmissible” to the US. CBP has declined to provide more details on Ajjawi’s case due to visa records being confidential under US law. However, Ajjawi states that he was deported due to a friend’s social media account.
In a written statement for The Harvard Crimson, Ajjawi wrote that he was held in questioning with other international students. When they were allowed to leave, Ajjawi was forced to stay behind, and authorities continued asking about his religious practices in Lebanon.
All told, he was held for approximately 8 hours. His phone and laptop were taken and searched for five of those hours. That’s when immigration officers allegedly found the information they would use to deport him.
“I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn’t like, [s]hare or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post,” he wrote in the statement published in The Harvard Crimson. “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”
His protests were left unheard — his visa was canceled and he was given one phone call to his parents.
Ajjawi is now back home in Lebanon working with a lawyer in hopes of resolving his visa issues so he can start school with his fellow students in September.