After being deported back to Lebanon eight hours upon arrival to the U.S. last week, Palestinian student Ismail B. Ajjawi finally made it to Harvard one day prior to his classes, according to The Harvard Crimson, the college's daily student newspaper.
Efforts from both the university and AMIDEAST, the scholarship organization sponsoring the student's education, played a huge part in challenging his deportation. In a statement on the matter, the lawyer of the 17-year-old student's family thanked AMIDEAST, Harvard, and authorities in both Lebanon and Washington for their support.
"The last ten 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. We hope now that everyone can respect our and Ismail's privacy and he can now simply focus on settling into College and his important class work," the statement read.
Ajjawi, a Palestinian resident of Lebanon, was denied entry to the U.S. last week and had his visa canceled just hours after arriving at the Boston Logan International Airport. The young man had traveled to the country after getting accepted into Harvard University to continue his studies. The student said he was interrogated and asked about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon. Immigration officers even searched his phone and computer before revoking his visa and deporting him back to Lebanon.
During the interrogation process, when Ajjawi's phone and laptop were unlocked and searched, one officer began questioning the 17-year-old about his friends' social media activity.
"After the 5 hours ended, she 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," Ajjawi wrote.
"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. I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics," he added.
Ajjawi was granted a scholarship to study at Harvard via AMIDEAST, a non-profit organization assisting students in the MENA region. He reached out to the organization to provide him with legal assistance shortly after his deportation.
The decision to deport Ajjawi sparked public outcry
Ajjawi's deportation sparked public outrage among people in the Arab world and the U.S. after it was reported last month. The case attracted international media attention and led student groups at Harvard campus to protest. A petition supporting Ajjawi garnered more than 7,000 signatures online in just one week.
The case also stirred backlash against U.S. President Donald Trump, with many blaming his racist rhetoric and Islamophobic decisions for the deportation.
Before the young student's repatriation decision was reversed, a Harvard spokesman said the university was working with immigration officials to ensure the student could arrive back in the U.S. before his classes began.
Though Harvard undergraduates rarely face such issues, four graduate students faced a similar situation back in 2017 following Trump's then-effective travel ban which affected several Muslim-majority countries. The students were eventually granted entry into the U.S. months after being stuck in a pending state.