U.S. officials deported a 17-year-old Palestinian student who was set to begin classes at Harvard University after searching his phone and laptop and finding social media posts from friends expressing “political points of view that oppose the U.S.,” the Harvard Crimson reported Tuesday.
After arriving at Boston Logan Airport on Friday, Ismail Ajjawi was detained and questioned for hours by immigration officials, who ultimately revoked his student visa and sent him back to Lebanon, where he is a resident.
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 U.S. on my friend[s] list.”
The student said that he has never posted anything political and was adamant that he should not be held accountable for the posts of others, adding that he did not like, share, or comment on any of the posts in question.
The State Department and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to the Crimson’s requests for comment.
Under a new Trump administration policy that began in June, visa applicants are required to submit information about any social media accounts they’ve operated over the last five years to the State Department.
The student newspaper reported that Ajjawi has been in contact with the university’s International Office, which is working to resolve his case. He is also receiving legal assistance from AMIDEAST, a non-profit group that awarded him a scholarship to study in the U.S.
In 2017, international students at Harvard and other universities across the country were temporarily barred from entering the U.S. because of the administration’s “Muslim Ban,” which prevented citizens from a number of majority-Muslim countries from entering the country, even if they held valid visas.
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