We Demand the Safe Re-Entry of Ismail Ajjawi (Harvard Class of 2023)

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On August 23rd, 17-year-old Ismail B. Ajjawi departed his home in the Mieh Mieh Refugee Camp in Lebanon and landed in Boston Logan International Airport to start his education as a member of the Harvard College Class of 2023. However, upon arrival, Ismail was detained, interrogated for several hours, and eventually deported back to Lebanon by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), despite possessing a valid entry visa.

CBP maintains that Ismail was inadmissible based on information found during his inspection. This inspection, however, was far longer and more invasive than inspections for other international students. While other students were reportedly permitted to leave after an initial line of questioning, CBP continued to interrogate Ismail about his religious practices in Lebanon and asked him to unlock his phone and laptop, which they then searched for several hours. Upon return, a woman affiliated with CBP yelled at and accused Ismail of having friends that post opinions opposing the United States, posts which he has never liked, shared, or endorsed in any way. Despite Ismail’s protests, CBP cancelled his visa and deported him back to Lebanon.

The actions of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection were arbitrary and completely reprehensible. Ismail’s only “crime” was seeking an education at one of the world’s leading institutes of higher education. Putting aside valid concerns over freedom of speech, Ismail should not be punished for the political opinions of his peers. More importantly, Ismail deserves more than the dehumanizing practices of this country’s immigration enforcement. He was promised an opportunity to pursue his education and deserves to be treated humanely. 

In the wake of this administration’s racist rhetoric around migration, we seek congressional action towards the safety and security of all immigrants. Specifically, it is important to acknowledge that Palestinian refugees are one of the most targeted populations by inhumane immigration policies. Palestinian lives have also been personally under attack by this administration. From members of Congress to incoming first-years at Harvard, the cruelty of this administration knows no bounds. 

We call upon members of Congress to support Ismail in his return to the U.S. to begin his academic studies. We also ask that Harvard continue to work and actively stand in solidarity with Ismail to ensure his re-entry into the country. Finally, we ask Harvard be an advocate against the cruel immigration policies that continue to harm students and members of the immigrant community beyond their gates.

In Solidarity,

Harvard College Act on a Dream

Harvard Society of Arab Students 

Harvard Islamic Society 

Harvard Student Labor Action Movement 

Harvard African Students Association

Harvard Nigerian Students Association

Harvard Black Students Association

Harvard College Democrats

Harvard Fuerza Latina

Harvard SHADE

Harvard Black Men’s Forum

Harvard-Radcliffe Raza

Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Womxn's Association

Harvard TPS Coalition

Harvard Centrist Society

Association of Black Harvard Women

Black Political Action Committee

Cuban-American Undergraduate Student Association

Jewish Voice for Peace Boston 

Pakistani Student Association

Task Force on Asian and Pacific American Studies