[Marxism] Harvard Student Says He Was Barred From U.S. Over His Friends’ Social Media Posts

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Aug 28 09:08:00 MDT 2019

NY Times, Aug. 28, 2019
Harvard Student Says He Was Barred From U.S. Over His Friends’ Social 
Media Posts
By Karen Zraick and Mihir Zaveri

A Palestinian student from Lebanon who was set to begin his freshman 
year at Harvard was denied entry to the United States after immigration 
officials objected to his friends’ social media posts, he said this 
week, prompting furor among free-speech advocates.

The student, Ismail B. Ajjawi, 17, landed at Logan International Airport 
in Boston on Friday, and was turned back by a Customs and Border 
Protection agent, according to an account he gave The Harvard Crimson, a 
student newspaper.

Mr. Ajjawi, a resident of Tyre, Lebanon, said in the account that his 
phone and laptop were searched and that he was questioned at the airport 
about his friends’ social media activity. He wrote that an agent had 
yelled at him and “said she found people posting political points of 
view that oppose the U.S. on my friend list.”

He told the agent that he should not be held responsible for others’ 
posts, the statement said.

“I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn’t 
like, share or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held 
responsible for what others post,” he wrote.

He added, “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”

Mr. Ajjawi told The Crimson that his visa was then canceled and that he 
was sent back to Lebanon. Classes at Harvard are set to begin Sept. 3.

Michael S. McCarthy, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said 
he could not comment on the specifics of Mr. Ajjawi’s case because of 
privacy rules.

“This individual was deemed inadmissible to the United States based on 
information discovered during the CBP inspection,” the agency said in a 

The statement noted that foreign visitors 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.”

Mr. McCarthy noted that Mr. Ajjawi could reapply for a visa.

Reached through an intermediary, Mr. Ajjawi declined to comment and 
referred questions about his case to his lawyer, Albert Mokhiber. Mr. 
Mokhiber did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The action that Mr. Ajjawi said was taken against him was widely 
criticized by free-speech advocates, who argued that denying a student 
the chance to begin classes at one of the world’s foremost universities 
over social media posts written by other people, as Mr. Ajjawi contended 
had occurred, was unfair and alarming.

They said Mr. Ajjawi’s case highlighted the potential dangers of a 
policy announced by the Trump administration last year that nearly all 
applicants for a visa to enter the United States would be asked to 
submit their social media user names for the past five years.

Sarah McLaughlin, the director of targeted advocacy for the Foundation 
for Individual Rights in Education, said that there had been “numerous 
recent accusations that U.S. immigration officials are denying visas on 
the basis of political viewpoints.”

“Ajjawi’s allegations, if accurate, represent a threat to academic 
freedom, one that should be taken seriously by those who care about 
protecting expressive freedoms in the United States,” she said.

Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programs at PEN 
America, said in a statement that “preventing people from entering the 
country because their friends critiqued the U.S. on social media shows 
an astounding disregard for the principle of free speech.”

Carrie DeCell, a lawyer on staff at the Knight First Amendment Institute 
at Columbia University, said in a statement that the case underscored 
the problems with giving the government broad authority to trawl through 
travelers’ data.

“The chilling effects of incidents like these ripple through communities 
far beyond Harvard’s incoming freshman class, resulting in widespread 
self-censorship on social media and threatening intellectual freedom,” 
she said.

In a statement, Harvard said that it was “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.”

In a video posted last week on the Facebook page of Al Araby, a 
London-based Arabic broadcaster, Mr. Ajjawi said in an interview that he 
wanted to pursue a career in medicine. He said that his acceptance to 
Harvard “shows that Palestinians can succeed and excel despite all the 
pressure on them.”

Last month, the university president, Lawrence S. Bacow, wrote a letter 
to Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and Kevin McAleenan, the acting 
secretary of Homeland Security, expressing concern about the student 
visa process. He noted the crucial role that students, faculty and 
researchers from across the globe play in the university’s work.

“Increasingly, visa delays are making these scholars’ attendance and 
engagement in the university unpredictable and anxiety-ridden,” he 
wrote. “Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays 
to denials. Scholars have experienced postponements and disruptions for 
what have previously been routine immigration processes such as family 
visas, renewals of status, or clearance for international travel.”

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