A Palestinian Harvard freshman's student visa was revoked and he was deported after hours of questioning by immigration officials upon his arrival to the US, the university said Tuesday.
Ismail B. Ajjawi said in a written statement to the Harvard Crimson, which first reported the news, that he was deported because he followed friends on social media who posted what immigration officials perceived as anti-American content.
The 17-year-old resident of Tyre, Lebanon, and a member of the class of 2023 said that he was detained for hours by immigration officers upon his arrival at Boston Logan International Airport on Friday. The officers, he said, searched the contents of his phone and laptop, and questioned him about his friends’ social media activity.
“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,” Ajjawi said in the statement. “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”
A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson confirmed Ajjawi was "deemed inadmissible" after the questioning, but did not elaborate.
“This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection," an agency spokesperson said.
Ajjawi had been awarded a scholarship to study in the United States by the nonprofit organization AMIDEAST and, like other Harvard students, planned to move into campus Tuesday.
“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,” Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton told BuzzFeed News.
Ajjawi received the AMIDEAST's Hope Fund scholarship, which helps "promising, academically qualified but financially challenged students from Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem" attend universities in the US.
Earlier this summer, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow wrote to the secretary of state and acting Homeland Security secretary about concerns regarding student visas in the Trump administration.
"I understand that the responsibility for the uncertainties in today’s immigration policy rest more broadly than just with your two agencies. That said, the visa and immigration process is increasingly unpredictable and uncertain," Bacow wrote. "This poses risks not just to the individuals caught up in it, but also to the entirety of our academic enterprise."