Last week we saw the story of incoming Harvard freshman Ismail Ajjawi, who flew into the US to attend the university, only to be sent back after a customs’ official decided his friends weren’t the right type of people.
According to the Harvard Crimson, the 17-year-old Palestinian student was detained and questioned by an official who first asked him questions about his religious practices. Then he proceeded to search his laptop and cellphone for a few hours, combing through them until turning to social media posts made by his friends.
He was a 17 year old student looking forward to attending Harvard this fall.
Instead, a US customs official blocked his entry and sent him back to Lebanon after he was “deemed inadmissible”.
Now the fight is on for his right to attend the university. https://t.co/1Ar7EunBi6
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) August 28, 2019
“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,” Ajjawi wrote, according to the Crimson. “I responded that I have no business with such posts and that didn’t like, share or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post.”
But that didn’t matter to this official, and Ajjawi was sent back home.
When Harvard heard about the situation, they immediately jumped into action and started working on getting their new freshman back into the country and enrolled in school.
“The University is working closely with the student’s family and appropriate authorities to resolve this matter so that he can join his classmates in the coming days,” said a Harvard spokesperson at the time.
Well that time has come and Ismail is now back in the states and attending Harvard.
According to the NY Times, Amideast, the organization that sponsored Ajjawi, issued a statement saying that the US Embassy in Beirut reviewed his case and reissued a visa, and Harvard officials have confirmed that he is on campus.
“The anxiety was beyond belief for everybody,” said Ajjawi’s lawyer, Albert Mokhiber. “Thank God it all worked out.
“I told his dad, the hard part begins today, he’s at Harvard, and we had a little chuckle over that.” said Mokhiber.
In the time of Trump, these types of situations appear to have escalated, and advocates and educators alike are all concerned over the access foreign students have to study at universities in the US. And visa-versa should relationships continue to become strained under this presidency.
“Since May, the obstacles facing individuals ensnared in the nation’s visa and immigration process have only grown,” said Harvard President, Lawrence Bacow. “Various international students and scholars eager to establish lives here on our campus find themselves the subject of scrutiny and suspicion in the name of national security, and they are reconsidering the value of joining our community in the face of disruptions and delays.”
Fortunately for Ajjawi, things have worked out for now, and he can begin his education thanks to institutions like Harvard and nonprofit cultural exchange and education program, Amideast.
Unfortunately, as long as we live under this current administration, this won’t be the last incident of this type.