US immigration officials have deported a 17-year-old Palestinian student from Lebanon who was set to begin his freshman year at Harvard University after finding social media posts from friends expressing “political points of view that oppose the US”, the Harvard Crimson reported on Tuesday (27 August).
The student identified as Ismail B Ajjawi landed at Logan International Airport in Boston on Friday (23 August). There he was detained and questioned for hours by Customs and Border Protection agents. Following the questioning, his student visa was revoked and he was immediately deported.
In a written statement, Ajjawi said he was subjected to a five-hour interrogation that included questions about his religion.
“After the 5 hours ended, [an immigration officer] 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 claimed that he has never posted anything political and was adamant that he should not be held accountable for others’ posts. He added that he did not like, share, or comment on any of the posts in question.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Michael McCarthy says the decision was made "based on information discovered during the CBP inspection".
As per new US State Department regulations, visa applicants will have to submit social media names and five years' worth of email addresses and phone numbers. The applicants will have to give up their account names on a list of social media platforms, and also volunteer the details of their accounts on any sites not listed.
Ajjawi, who was awarded a scholarship to study in the US, is now being provided legal assistance by a US non-profit organisation.
Harvard University officials are also working to resolve the matter before classes begin on 3 September.
“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,” said Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L Swain.
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