Harvard freshman deemed 'inadmissible' by border agents, denied entry into U.S.

BOSTON — A Palestinian 17-year-old boy was set to attend Harvard University as a freshman in the fall, but according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents he was deemed "inadmissible" to enter the United States.

Incoming freshman Ismail Ajjawi was refused entry into the country on Friday and was sent back to Lebanon after hours of questioning regarding his religion and religious practices, Ajjawi told The Harvard Crimson.

"I was really disheartened that this happened to the student because I'm sure they were really excited [they had] just gotten into Harvard," said Parastoo Massoumi, an Iranian PhD student.

Ajjawi added that CBP also searched his phone and computer, asking him about his friends' social media accounts but not his own.

"He was judged based on the actions of others on his social media feed, so it was not taken care of the way it should've been," said Joohee Baik, a graduate student based in Cambridge.

A spokesperson for the university has confirmed Ajjawi was not allowed to enter the country and said, in a statement:

"The university is 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."

While CBP agents will not comment on "specific information on individual travelers" due to privacy concerns, they told Boston 25 News Ajjawi was "deemed inadmissible to the United States based on information discovered during the CBP inspection."

Exactly what the CBP's inspection entailed remains unclear, but officials said visa holders looking to enter the U.S. "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."

Despite being turned away at the border, CBP agents stress Ajjawi was not deported, but rather was denied entry to the country. Legally, someone who has been deemed inadmissible can still re-apply for a visa with the Department of State.

CBP officers have the authority to cancel visas under certain circumstances, while the Department of State had the authority to issue and revoke visas.

Classes at Harvard University are set to begin next week.