Harvard student gets into US after entry denied over friends' social media posts

Ismail Ajjawi had been sent home to Lebanon after hours of questioning in Boston, but ultimately made it back before classes began.

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A Harvard student couldn't get into the country because his friends posted "political points of view that oppose the US."

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Ismail Ajjawi, the incoming Harvard student who was denied entry into the US, has made it to class after all.

On Aug. 23, Ajjawi was turned away at Boston's Logan Airport after being questioned for hours and ultimately had his visa canceled after immigration officials searched his phone and laptop, according to The Harvard Crimson. He returned home to Lebanon that weekend.

That was apparently the result of the US government's probing of visa applicants' social media profiles. After the search, an officer questioned the 17-year-old, who got a scholarship to study in the US, about his friends' social media activity and told him she'd found some "posting political points of view that oppose the US," the student paper noted. Despite Ajjawi's protests, the officer denied the student's entry and let him call his parents.

Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Michael McCarthy said in an Aug. 28 emailed statement that he couldn't offer specific details on Ajjawi's case due to confidentiality restrictions. "This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection," he wrote.

The situation was ultimately resolved, and Ajjawi made it to Harvard on Monday, in time for the semester's first classes the following day, the Crimson reported.

"US Customs and Border Protection can confirm that on Monday Sept. 2, Ismail Ajjawi overcame all grounds of inadmissibility and was admitted into the United States as a student on a F1 visa," a CBP spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Speaking via their lawyer, Ajjawi's family expressed their appreciation for the support they got over a 10-day period of uncertainty and highlighted in particular the efforts on Amideast, a nonprofit that fosters relations between the US and the Middle East and North Africa.

"We truly appreciate the efforts of so many individuals and officials in Lebanon, Washington, Massachusetts and at Harvard that have made it possible for our son Ismail Ajjawi to begin his studies at Harvard with his class," the family said in a statement.

First published Aug. 28.
Updated Sept. 6: Added that Ajjawi made it into the US in time for class and added a statement from his family.

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