Posts by friends on social media were critical of the United States
Deirdre Fernandes, Boston Globe, August 27, 2019
A 17-year-old Palestinian student en route to Harvard University to begin his freshman year was denied entry to the United States at Logan Airport last weekend, heightening fears that the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policy is making it harder for international students to come to study.
The student, Ismail Ajjawi, lives in Lebanon and had a valid visa to study in the United States, but upon his arrival at Logan he was questioned by immigration officials and then sent on a flight back home, according to officials with Amideast, an international education nonprofit that administers the Hope Fund scholarship
the student received to help him attend Harvard.
Ajjawi was reportedly denied entry over political posts his friends made on social media that were critical of the United States.
The case has drawn anger and concern about the increased scrutiny facing the thousands of international students who flood US campuses, particularly those in the Boston area, every fall.
“It’s so counterproductive to American interests to close the doors to kids like this,” said Geraldine Brooks, the novelist, who was involved with the Hope Fund in its earliest days, nearly 20 years ago.
The more than a dozen freshmen who have come through the Hope Fund annually have studied through the shelling of their neighborhoods and had their schooling disrupted for long stretches, but they see a US degree as a path forward. One went to work for NASA, others have become engineers and educators, and one is a Rhodes Scholar, Brooks said.
“This is an indicator of a serious and dark problem happening unseen in back rooms of our airports,” Brooks said. Ajjawi is fortunate to be going to Harvard, an institution that has the resources and network to help him try and resolve the problem, she said.
“I’m completely outraged and so concerned about the kids who aren’t trying to get to clout-rich institutions,” Brooks said.
PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for free expression issues, called the decision to send Ajjawi back “perverse.”
“The idea that Ajjawi should be prevented from taking his place at Harvard because of his own political speech would be alarming; that he should be denied this opportunity based on the speech of others is downright lawless,” Summer Lopez, senior director of the organization, said in a statement.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said the student was deemed inadmissible and his visa was canceled.