Palestinian Harvard freshman denied entry to US arrives for start of semester

A 17-year-old Palestinian incoming Harvard freshman who was turned away from entering the U.S. after he was questioned about his friends’ social media posts has since been allowed into the country for the start of the semester.

Ismail Ajjawi flew into Boston on Saturday afternoon and was granted entry into the country, nonprofit AMIDEAST wrote in a release. He is now in Cambridge, Mass., in time for Harvard’s fall semester to start on Sept. 3.

"The last 10 days have been difficult and anxiety filled, but we are most grateful for the thousands of messages of support and particularly the work of AMIDEAST," the student’s family said in a statement from their lawyer to The Harvard Crimson.

“We are pleased that Ismail’s Harvard dream will come true after all. Ismail 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,” AMIDEAST President and CEO Theodore Kattouf said in the release.


Ajjawi, who is attending Harvard on a scholarship, was deported last week about eight hours after arriving at Logan International Airport and following immigration officials questioning him for hours, as well as searching his phone and computer.

After about five hours, he said, an immigration official “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,” the Crimson reported. His visa was then canceled and he was told he would be deported.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said "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."

He added: ”This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection," according to the Crimson.