Palestinian Student Blocked From Entering U.S. Finally Arrives at Harvard

Ismail Ajjawi, the incoming Harvard freshman who was denied entry into the United States after extensive questioning by authorities, finally arrived on campus on Monday, 10 days after Customs and Border Protection canceled his visa and sent him back to Lebanon.

According to the Harvard Crimson, Ajjawi, who is 17, made it to Cambridge, MA, a day before classes begin today. In a statement issued through their lawyer to the paper, Ajjawi’s family thanked the people and organizations who supported him and helped get him back to the country.

“The last ten days have been difficult and anxiety filled, but we are most grateful for the thousands of messages of support and particularly the work of AMIDEAST,” the family said in the statement. “We hope now that everyone can respect our and Ismail’s privacy and he can now simply focus on settling into College and his important class work.”

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Last month, CBP stopped Ajjawi at Boston’s Logan International Airport, where Ajjawi said he was detained for hours before being sent back to Lebanon. In a statement to the Crimson, he said immigration officers searched his phone and computer and questioned him about his friends’ social media activity. Ajjawi also said an officer asked him about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon.

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“When I asked every time to have my phone back so I could tell them about the situation, the officer refused and told me to sit back in [my] position and not move at all,” Ajjawi’s statement read. “After the 5 hours ended, she 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.”

At the time, a CBP spokesman told Splinter Ajjawi was “deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection,” although they didn’t disclose what this information was.

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On Monday, TechCrunch reported that a second U.S. visa holder was denied entry to the country over a message he had received on WhatsApp. Dakhil, a Muslim Pakistani national whose name has been changed to protect him, was sent back to Pakistan and banned from entering the U.S. for five years after being detained and questioned by CBP.

Dakhil told he publication that he was detained for 15 hours, and that officers asked him about the message—an image of a murdered child sent to him that had circulated Karachi to warn parents about kidnappings.

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“I was treated like a criminal,” Dakhil said. “They made my life miserable.”

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan