Marlene Lenthang and James Gordon as “Palestinian student, 17, arrives at Harvard – 10 days after he was ‘questioned for five hours’ after landing before his visa was revoked and he was barred from entering the U.S.” for Daily Mail
Al Araby via Facebook
Ismail Ajjawi, a 17-year-old student who was living in Lebanon, was apparently blocked from coming into the country because of his friends’ politically oriented social media posts.
‘The last ten days have been difficult and anxiety filled, but we are most grateful for the thousands of messages of support and particularly the work of AMIDEAST,’ a statement from his family said.
‘We truly appreciate the efforts of so many individuals and officials in Lebanon, Washington, Massachusetts and at Harvard that have made it possible for our son Ismail Ajjawi to begin his studies at Harvard with his class,’ his family’s statement added.
‘We hope now that everyone can respect our and Ismail’s privacy and he can now simply focus on settling into College and his important class work.’
AMIDEAST is a nonprofit organization that awarded Ajjawi a scholarship providing legal assistance.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman Michael McCarthy told Fox News that Ajjawi’s visa was initially cancelled based on information discovered during an inspection, however it was not revealed exactly what the information was.
Ajjawi said that after landing, immigration officers subjected him to hours of questioning and searched his phone and compute. He was confronted his friends’ social media posts that shared their political views that spoke out against the U.S., he said to school newspaper the Harvard Crimson.
Electronic devices and a search of social media accounts have increased since 2017, under the Trump administration which says such searches are critical to preventing extremists from entering the country.
Recalling his ordeal last month, Ajjawi says he spent a total of eight hours at Boston airport 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 alleged that an immigration officer continued to question him about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon. The 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, [s]hare 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 was allowed a phone call to his parents before he returned to Lebanon.
Harvard’s International Office employs immigration lawyers who worked to resolve that visa-related issues Ajjawi encountered.
Ajjawi was coming to Harvard on a scholarship given by AMIDEAST, a nonprofit, which is now aiding him with legal assistance.
Ajjawi, who spent some times as a refugee in Lebanon managed to secure a place at the coveted Ivy League school on a full scholarship.
‘This was always my goal; I did everything with this goal in mind, including managing my time wisely and studying as much as I can,’ Ajjawi said in the news video.
‘My plan is to become a doctor. I’m going to major in Chemical and Physical Biology at Harvard, as a pre-med student, and then I will go on to medical school,’ he added.
‘My success, that of a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, shows that Palestinians can be high achievers and attain success, despite their circumstances.’
His father was also included in the video as he proudly gushed about his son’s success saying: ‘This was a very happy moment for us, that all of his hard work paid off. Despite the severe hardships that the Palestinian people face, we are achieving high success.’
‘I’m so proud of him and God willing he will be a good representative and example for Palestinians abroad.’