The Slatest

A Palestinian Freshman Arrived in the U.S. to Study at Harvard. Immigration Officials Revoked His Visa and Deported Him.

Harvard Yard
Harvard Yard viewed on Nov. 16, 2015, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

With classes scheduled to start next week, incoming Harvard freshman Ismail B. Ajjawi, like many of his fellow students, was set to arrive on campus for the first time this week. But the 17-year-old Palestinian’s hard-won education at perhaps the world’s preeminent university is now in doubt. American immigration officials stopped Ajjawi, a Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon, at Boston Logan International Airport on Friday night, the Crimson reports, where he was held in custody for eight hours and subjected to invasive questioning by a female immigration officer, who then abruptly told him his study visa was being canceled and that he was being deported.

“Upon arrival, Ajjawi faced questioning from immigration officials along with several other international students. While the other students were allowed to leave, Ajjawi alleges an immigration officer continued to question him about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon,” according to the Crimson. “The same officer then asked him to unlock his phone and laptop, and left to search them for roughly five hours, Ajjawi alleges. After the search, the officer questioned him about his friends’ social media activity.”

“When I asked every time to have my phone back so I could tell [someone] about the situation, the officer refused and told me to sit back in [my] position and not move at all,” Ajjawi wrote in a statement. “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.” University officials told the Crimson they still are trying to resolve the situation in time for Ajjawi—whose enrollment at Harvard was made possible by a scholarship from a nonprofit organization—to be in class when the semester starts Sept. 3.

“I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics,” Ajjawi wrote. “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.”