Incoming Harvard freshman denied entry by immigration officials

Posted at 4:39 PM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 18:40:39-04

When Harvard University’s dorms opened their doors to first-year students on Tuesday, one was missing. Ismail Ajjawi, an incoming first-year student, was denied entry to the United States last week, according to the university.

“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 wrote in an email to CNN.

US Customs and Border Protection confirmed to CNN that Ajjawi was turned away at the border — but declined to provide any details.

“This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection,” the agency said in a statement.

The university’s newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, describes Ajjawi as a “17-year-old Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon.”

The Crimson’s report quotes from a written statement attributed to Ajjawi, in which the incoming student describes his encounter with immigration officials at Boston’s Logan Airport.

According to the Crimson, Ajjawi says he was detained for eight hours before being turned away. During that time, he alleges, an immigration official asked him to unlock his phone and laptop and proceeded to search them for five hours. The Crimson says he was then asked questions about his friends’ social media activities.

According to the Crimson, Ajjawi alleges he was told that there were “political points of view that oppose the US” expressed by people he follows on social media.

After he was questioned, the Crimson reports, his visa was revoked and he was sent back to Lebanon.

The Lebanese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The development comes just over a month after Harvard’s President, Lawrence Bacow, wrote an open letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan expressing concern over the administration’s immigration policies and their effect on Harvard’s academic programs.

“Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays to denials,” Bacow wrote in July. International students and scholars, he wrote at the time, “are not just participants in the life of the university; they are essential to it.”

He criticized the visa and immigration process as “unpredictable and uncertain.”

Legal representatives for Ajjawi could not be immediately reached for comment and attempts to reach Ajjawi directly were not immediately successful.