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Palestinian Harvard Freshman Sent Back to Lebanon After Border Officials Searched His Computer and Phone

The incoming freshman was detained for eight hours at Boston's Logan Airport before being returned to Lebanon.

by Gaby Del Valle
Aug 27 2019, 2:43pm

An incoming Harvard freshman was sent back to Lebanon after being detained at a Boston airport for hours, reportedly after immigration officers found social media posts his friends made that were critical of the U.S.

Ismail B. Ajjawi, an incoming freshman, was supposed to arrive on the elite-college campus this week. Instead, the Harvard Crimson reports, the 17-year-old Palestinian is trying to resolve his case with Harvard’s lawyers from Lebanon, where he lives with his family.

Ajawi was reportedly detained at Boston Logan International Airport for eight hours, during which he was questioned by immigration officers and forced to hand over his electronics.

While there, he and several other international students were questioned by immigration officers, but all of them were eventually allowed to leave except Ajjawi, who was subjected to additional questioning about his religious practices in Lebanon.

Ajjawi said an officer told him to unlock his phone and laptop, which were searched for about five hours.

READ: ICE keeps arresting immigration activists. They think they're being targeted.

Afterwards, he said, the officers questioned him about posts on his social media feed that were critical of the U.S.

“After the five 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 U.S. on my friend[s] list,” Ajjawi told the Crimson.

“I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn't like, [s]hare or comment on them and told her that I shouldn't be held responsible for what others post,” Ajjawi said. “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”

He was sent back anyway.

It’s not immediately clear whether Ajjawi was deemed inadmissible because of the social media posts or for another reason.

Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on Ajjawi’s case, citing Privacy Act requirements and “law enforcement purposes,” but clarified that Ajjawi was denied admission, not deported.

“Applicants must demonstrate they are admissible into the U.S. by overcoming all grounds of inadmissibility including health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds,” a Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson told VICE News. “This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection.”

Cover: A general view of one of the many gates to the Harvard University Campus in the Boston suburb of Cambridge on August 31, 2018 in Boston MA. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)