US immigration officials denied entry to a Palestinian student due to begin classes at Harvard University after finding that he had friends who had made social media postings critical of the US, a student newspaper reported.
The student, Ismail Ajjawi, was sent back to Lebanon after five hours of questioning at the airport in Boston, The Harvard Crimson said, citing an account provided by Mr Ajjawi.
The university issued a statement saying it was aware of the matter and working to resolve it.
Officials of various US government agencies declined to comment on the matter, citing privacy laws, and issued statements affirming their right to deny entry to anyone failing to meet eligibility requirements.
The case, however, is part of a pattern of delays and restrictions facing foreign students that various US university officials – including Harvard’s president, Lawrence Bacow – have publicly condemned as being harmful to students, their institutions and the nation overall.
Mr Ajjawi said in his statement that a US immigration officer told him that in searching his social media contacts, she “found people posting political points of view that oppose the US”.
The officer at one point was “screaming at me”, Mr Ajjawi said, yet told him that she found nothing objectionable that he had posted. “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics,” he told the Crimson.
Such treatment of Harvard undergraduates is rare, the Crimson reported. It described a 2017 case, however, in which four postgraduate students faced similar problems during a period when the Trump administration had imposed a ban on travellers from certain countries. Harvard then warned foreign students not to leave the US.
The graduate students returned over periods ranging from weeks to months, the newspaper said. Classes for Mr Ajjawi and other Harvard freshmen begin on 3 September.
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