Level 1: Elementary
United States officials denied a Palestinian student’s request to enter the country this month. The student was planning to attend classes at Harvard University.
Some Americans are calling what happened to him an example of overly invasive safeguards at U.S. border checkpoints.
Ismail Ajjawi was refused entry after landing last week at Boston’s airport in Massachusetts. The 17-year-old said his denial was linked to political messages published by his friends on social media.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, however, would not confirm the information. The official told The Associated Press (AP) that the decision to cancel Ajjawi’s visa was based on information discovered during an inspection. The official added, he can still try to reapply for visa to enter the country.
Ajjawi told the Harvard University student newspaper that federal agents detained him for eight hours. He said they searched his electronic devices and questioned him about his friends’ social media posts. They included “political points of view that oppose the U.S.,” he said in a statement.
“I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn’t like, (s)hare or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post,” Ajjawi wrote.
A Harvard University official said the school is working “to resolve this matter so that he can join his classmates in the coming days.”
AMIDEAST, a not-for-profit organization that awarded Ajjawi a scholarship, is providing legal assistance.
Summer Lopez is a senior director with PEN America, a nonprofit organization that works for free speech. She said, “Preventing people from entering the country because their friends critiqued the U.S. on social media shows an astoundingdisregard for the principle of free speech.”
Carrie DeCell is a lawyer with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Colombia University in New York. She said that the incident could result in self-censorship on social media and threaten intellectual freedom.
The AP reports a group that calls for stronger immigration laws, the Center for Immigration Studies, did not answer its request for comment. But the administration of President Donald Trump has said the increased searches are critical to prevent extremists from entering the country.