NEW YORK—Last Friday, U.S. officials deported a 17-year-old Palestinian from Lebanon, Ismail B. Ajjawi, after he arrived at Boston Logan International Airport on his way to start freshman year at Harvard University. According to a report in today’s Harvard Crimson, immigration officers subjected Ajjawi to hours of questioning and searched his phone and computer, revoking his visa after reading his friends’ social media posts that allegedly criticize the U.S.

The following response can be attributed to Carrie DeCell, Staff Attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“The revocation of this student’s visa underscores the problems with giving the government broad authority to conduct invasive searches of travelers’ cell phones and laptops in the hope of uncovering critical or controversial speech, and to exclude them from the U.S. based on their speech, beliefs, or associations. 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.”

The Knight Institute along with the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law recently argued in court for the release of Trump administration records regarding any new “extreme vetting” policies used to exclude individuals based on their speech, beliefs, or associations. All records obtained through that litigation to date are available on our website in a searchable database. The Institute is also litigating a request for records relating to the government’s warrantless searches of electronic devices at the border.

For more information, contact Lorraine Kenny, Communications Director, Knight First Amendment Institute,, 646-745-8510.