Harvard freshman barred from US, allegedly over friends’ social media posts

Harvard freshman barred from US, allegedly over friends’ social media posts
The 17-year-old freshman alleges he was detained for eight hours by immigration officials at Logan's Boston Airport. He says for five of those hours, an official searched his phone and laptop. (Source: Harvard University/CNN)

(CNN) - An incoming Harvard University freshman says he was denied entry to the United States after immigration officials searched his social media accounts and found “political points of view that oppose the U.S.” expressed by some people he follows.

The Harvard Crimson, the university’s newspaper, describes Ismail Ajjawi, an incoming student, as a “17-year-old Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon.” He alleges he was detained for eight hours last week by immigration officials at Boston’s Logan Airport.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed 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," said the agency in a statement.

According to the Crimson, Ajjawi alleges that during his detention, an immigration official asked him to unlock his phone and laptop and searched them for five hours. He says he was then asked questions about his friends’ social media activities.

While most Harvard freshmen settle into their dorms Tuesday, one new student, Ismail B. Ajjawi ’23, faces ongoing...

Posted by The Harvard Crimson on Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Ajjawi alleges he was told that there were “political points of view that oppose the U.S.” expressed by people he follows on social media. He says he himself didn’t make any political posts and shouldn’t be held responsible for those of others.

After questioning, his visa was revoked, and he was sent back to Lebanon, the Crimson reports.

"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," wrote Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton in an email to CNN.

The first day of the fall semester at Harvard is Tuesday, Sept. 3.

The development comes just over a month after Harvard President Lawrence Bacow wrote an open letter to Trump administration officials expressing concern over its immigration policies and their effect on the university’s academic programs.

He criticized the visa and immigration process as "unpredictable and uncertain,” saying that international students had reported difficulty in obtaining visas.

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