Palestinian Harvard student deported from Boston for friends' Facebook posts that 'oppose the US'

Palestinian Harvard student deported from Boston for friends' Facebook posts that 'oppose the US'
A 17-year-old incoming Harvard freshman was deported from the US shortly after landing in Boston, when an immigration official found posts on his friends' Facebook pages 'that oppose the US'.
2 min read
27 August, 2019
The Palestinian student had received a scholarship to study at Harvard [The Boston Globe/Getty Images]

A Palestinian student's plans to start his freshman year at Harvard was thwarted by Boston immigration officials after they allegedly read posts on his friends' Facebook that "opposed" the US. 

Ismail B. Ajjawi, 17, from Tyre, Lebanon, was deported from Boston Logan International Airport shortly after he landed, the Harvard Crimson reported. 

US officials interrogated Ajjaawi for hours and searched his phone and computer, a written statement by Ajjawi reveals.

Eight hours of interrogation included questions about the young students' religion and religious practices in Lebanon and the social media activity of his friends. 

A US immigration officer searched Ajjawi's phone and laptop for five of the eight hours, Ajjawi said, after which he was questioned about the political views of his friends on Facebook.

"After the five hours ended, she called me into a room , and she started screaming at me," he wrote. "She said that she found people posting political points of view that oppose the US on my friend[s] list."

Ajjawi told the officer he had not made any political posts or commented on the posts of his friends. "I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics," he wrote. 

Nevertheless, his visa was cancelled and he was informed he would be deported.

Harvard University is looking to resolve the matter. AMIDEAST, a non-profit organisation that awarded Ajawi a scholarship to study in the US, is also providing him with legal assistance. 

Ajjawi wrote from Lebanon that he hopes to have his visa reinstated so that he can return to Harvard in time for classes, which start next Tuesday.

The Harvard Crimson noted that in 2017 four graduate students faced similar challenges after US President Donald Trump enforced a travel ban against travellers from several Muslim-majority countries.

The travel ban, which affects citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Sudan, was first introduced in 2017. Despite several attempts to block the executive order in courts across the country, the ban was finally upheld by the Supreme Court last year.

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