A seventeen-year-old Palestinian student from Lebanon who was denied entry into the United States last month, has been granted access to enter the country in time to begin classes at Harvard University today.
When Ismail Ajjawi flew to Boston’s Logan International Airport last month, he was questioned by immigration officials about his religious practices and beliefs; his electronic devices were unlocked; and his social media was checked thoroughly. He was then denied entry and had his visa removed due to his alleged links with an extremist friend on social media. Even though he insisted that he was not responsible for other people’s beliefs, he was judged to be inadmissible to the US “based on information discovered during the CBP inspection.”
At the time, specific information about individual travellers could not be released due to requirements enforced by the privacy act and legal purposes. Ajjawi and his family appealed to Harvard University to intervene in their case.
“The last 10 days have been difficult and anxiety filled,” the family told the Harvard Crimson through their lawyer, “but we are most grateful for the thousands of messages of support and particularly the work of AMIDEAST.” This was a reference to the US-based non-profit organisation which helped them through the process.
Ajjawi flew back into Boston on Saturday afternoon, having been granted entry and permission to attend classes for his chemical and physical biology studies.
“We are pleased that Ismail’s Harvard dream will come true after all,” said Theodore Kattouf, CEO and President of AMIDEAST. “He is a bright young man whose hard work, intelligence and drive enabled him to overcome the challenges that Palestinian refugee youth continue to face in order to earn a scholarship.”
Ismail Ajjawi is not the first to face such a predicament. His is one of many cases in which students from abroad, particularly from parts of the world like the Middle East, face obstacles despite their confirmed places to study in US educational institutions. In July, the President of Harvard University, Lawrence Bacow, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan in which he expressed his concerns about students having difficulties obtaining visas, as well as facing delays and direct denial of entry.