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Incoming Harvard Freshman Deported After Visa Revoked (thecrimson.com)
37 points by onemoresoop 50 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments



> “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.”

> “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,” he wrote. “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”

> The officer then canceled Ajjawi’s visa, informed him he would be deported, and allowed him a phone call to his parents.

I guess there's a new tip if you plan to travel to the US: delete all social media for at least a few months, or else fill it with fake accounts praising the United States.

Huh. Now there's a fun business idea. For $k, we make you a new social media account that clones your existing ones (including friends), but removes all posts by your friends that machine learning determines are anti-American, and adds new posts that praises America.


That's a case of an official abusing her power; not something that changing immigration laws will prevent.


I think this comment is naive; there is a backdrop and context to this sort of thing happening. Just look around, no?


No that's how they build a profile, its pretty obvious that who you follow on Twitter/FB is seen as indicative of your interests (even if its not really, I follow ppl just to see what crazy sh*t they'll say next, but I'm also not applying for a visa or government clearance).

Your social media profile should be treated like a resume, especially if you tie it your real life identity, and you believe for any reason, that it'll be reviewed.


So a set of laws creating a separate body to review and punish these abuses wouldn't change anything?


Disallowing "outsourcing" such tasks to private contractors would be something I'm definitely in favor of.

A fast track for appeals in cases of suspected power abuse would probably also be worthy of consideration.


Given that Tyre is in the South of Lebanon, it is likely that his friends were making anti-Israel posts. It would be very interesting to see what the posts were, if they were really subversive or just promoting BDS - Boycott, Divest, Sanction.

Given that Ajjawi identified as Palestinian, this is more likely, and it would be a legitimate grievance considering that Israel has illegally expropriated much of Palestine.


USCIS discussion:

Agent A. This guy is a terrorist. Look at that crap he's part of it.

Agent B: Yeah but I don't see his name anywhere.

Agent : Well, he might have scrubbed his posting first.

BOTTOM LINE: your visa depends on the agents at the gate.


Without knowing the details and just going by what was said in the article, it's impossible to make a decision whether it was right or wrong to bar him from entering the USA.

If this student was keeping company with people who openly supported ISIS or wanted to hurt Americans, would it still be ok to let him attend Harvard even though he never made any Social Media posts about politics?


It should have been dealt at a different level.

His student visa should have been accepted anyway, and open an investigation on him as a US resident if you think he could be a terrorist threat. He passed several layers of heavy screening already, it shouldn’t all be canceled on a single agent’s presumption based on social media posts.


It’s worse than you think.

1. One’s standing on a temporary visa (whether a B-visa as a tourist or an F/J-visa as a student) is always subject to such arbitrary fates by both DHS and DoS personnel. This includes the arbitrary and - more painfully, non-appealable and non-reviewable control a single CBP (part of DHS) officer on whether you get to enter the US each time you attempt to do so. That’s the problem this kid ran into. But it starts even earlier: visas are denied in a similarly non-reviewable and non-appealable way by a single FS (part of DoS) consular officer. A staggering percentage of those [1] are denied in the above-mentioned categories. There’s plenty of folks here on HN that can tell you this has happened to them or to someone they know and could vouch for personally.

[1] https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Statistics/Non-Im...

2. A US permanent resident (informally known as a green card holder) is subject to the same scrutiny by CBP at each entry as someone on a temporary visa. So you can still get deported on your 100th return to the US after 30 years of living here. But you do have legal recourse to have such a decision of inadmissibility reviewed by an immigration court. Great, you might think. But your chances of winning anything in immigration court are largely determined by who you draw as an ICE (part of DHS) prosecutor and an immigration (judges are under EOIR, part of DoJ) judge. The prosecutor has the (limited) ability to decide to fight such an appeal. (This is how Dreamers, for example, aren’t all being deported: they are low-priority ICE prosecution targets, even now under Trump. DACA, under Obama, was a liberal presidential whim: it was an executive order telling ICE prosecutors to indefinitely postpone Dreamer prosecutions.) And how liberally an immigration judge interprets ruling law is very geographically correlated [2].

[2] https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-immi... https://trac.syr.edu/phptools/immigration/court_backlog/depo...

3. The judge isn’t the only arbitrary actor under DoJ. EOIR has no independence from the executive branch, so immigration court judges are subject to a president’s policy whims. Judges’ decisions are reviewed by an appellate body (BIA) but that’s also part of EOIR and thus DoJ. And the AG (head of DoJ) can arbitrarily take any pending immigration decision out of the hands of an immigration judge or BIA panel and then decide it on their own. (Former Trump AG Sessions accelerated the usage of this.) Current Trump AG Barr has recently delegated this power down to the head of EOIR, thus adding yet another individual with the power to make arbitrary decisions [3].

[3] https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.washingtontimes.com/news/20...

4. Both AILA (the association of immigration attorneys) and NAIJ (the judges union) wants to end the arbitrariness and establish a pattern of decision making based on legal jurisprudence and precedent. They want to accomplish this by moving EOIR under the judicial branch instead of the executive. AG Barr’s response has been to attempt to decertify the union [4].

[4] https://www.npr.org/2019/08/12/750656176/trump-administratio...


> If this student was keeping company with people who openly supported ISIS or wanted to hurt Americans, would it still be ok to let him attend Harvard?

Yes.

If no student at Harvard has been allowed to meet anyone that tangentially knows anyone that supports ISIS, that keeps America blind, not safe.

Higher learning institutions exist to bring differing viewpoints together, not to insulate the elite from anything that makes some people feel uncomfortable.


Facebook friends have nothing to do with people one keeps company with.


I have some friends who have severe mental health problems. The shit they can come out with on their social media can be pretty, well, mental. If this is the standard that everybody is put to, then I could easily find it very hard to get a visa, purely for not abandoning the unwell.


Actually, there's plenty of information to inform such a decision:

While the other students were allowed to leave, Ajjawi alleges an immigration officer continued to question him about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon.

So it looks like they deported him because, first, he was a raghead...

“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.”

and second because he has friends (or random associates) who disagree with U.S. foreign policy.


@hourislate's point is that this is a "he said, she said" story in which only he has said anything. USCIS, as the article said, can't say anything.


USCIS should not be involved at all. It should be just CBP.


Please read the Crimson article. Only CBP was involved, both in the interaction and in the public relations around this.


"he said, she said" is only useful when both he and she have relatively equal power. When one entity can hold a metaphorical gun to the other person's head, it no longer works.


At the risk of a massive surge of downvotes, in what universe is this ok?

If someone has managed to get into Harvard, isn't that someone that we want in the US? It baffles me the level of cognitive dissonance that must be happening in the brains of the people that support the Trump administration and how much they have to repeat to themselves that this nationalistic moron is somehow not a racist.

While I understand that HN doesn't like people engaging in political discussions, I have to think that inaction from educated people is not a neutral position. Shouldn't hackers (and wannabe intellectuals like me) be the force that is actively discussing these dangerous positions?


I personally believe this (and many cases like it) are just a symptom of the systems we have created to live in.

Our laws and systems are so complex and convoluted that nobody can reasonably keep track of, or apply them all in any logical or reasonable fashion. Rules exist for the purpose of being enforced, and so someone has gone about enforcing rules here. The fact there is more information is completely irrelevant to the enforcement of one particular rule.

My family used to joke that we need the "Reasonable Police" who would be above literally everything, and intelligent people could sit there and see if something makes sense as a whole or not before a decision is made about anything.

EDIT: Yes, of course I know the "Reasonable Police" is fraught with danger. That's why we would joke about it.


> My family used to joke that we need the "Reasonable Police" who would be above literally everything, and intelligent people could sit there and see if something makes sense as a whole or not before a decision is made about anything.

Insofar as I'm aware, that's supposed to be our elected representatives. Unfortunately most seem to be self-interested or otherwise in the pocket of people paying them to not care.


Sounds all good and dandy until these "Reasoning Police" are filled with antivaxers, climate change deniers, ex-fossil fuel lobbyists, monsanto reps, etc.


Nah this is just Trump's social media policy. Clearly it extends to friends and perhaps friends of friends. It should be pressed in the courts and maybe Congress should get involved. I mean we do recognize freedom of speech in this country and freedom of association. Since this kid had a valid Visa so the vetting should have been done and the bar to invalidate that visa should be high. That being said, it seems wise for people to purge their social media before visiting the US. It also seems wise not to have US social media accounts.


CBP were checking social media accounts under Obama for sure. Not sure if they did it for Visa applications under Obama or not but Trump made it a requirement.


Yes they did. I am not saying they didn't check social media before Trump. I am saying that this is Trump's specific policy at play here. Also this guy obtained a valid visa!


> in what universe is this ok

To play the devil's advocate - a universe in which a country (and other countries) have been attacked by people allowed into the country on similar visas. If someone fits a profile of a potential risk against a country's citizens (as indicated by the friends who exhibit strong anti-country biases), deporting is the next step.

This is also one of the most benign cases of border entry issues we've heard lately.

Setting aside the advocacy, it is a lot of power for any one person to have, but someone needs to do the job, and neither you nor I are doing it. If we don't do it, and others who think the same way as us don't do it, someone who doesn't think the same way as us will do it.


Ted Kaczynski matriculated and graduated from Harvard.

To make a college admissions department a sole arbiter of who is good in the world is to place too much responsibility and power in a location unsuited for the task.


Ted was on point in most of his views except for the “killing people” thing. Lots of business execs have graduated from Harvard and probably done worse for the country overall than TK.


I don't think that anyone is calling for a college admissions department to be the sole arbiter of who is good in the world. Mind you, if I had to choose between a college admissions department and US immigration officials as the sole arbiter of who is good in the world, I suspect that US immigration officials would probably not be getting the call.


While I agree with your thoughts on curbing high-skilled immigration, I'm curious as to why you think it's mainly Trump's fault and/or a new 'racist' policy? This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. Trump's deported fewer people than Obama [0].

I agree that this shouldn't be happening, but question both the accuracy and utility of blaming it on Trump.

Maybe if we had a more correct diagnosis, we as hackers - as you say - could be a more effective force against this.

[0] https://www.axios.com/immigration-ice-deportation-trump-obam...


One of the worst misconceptions many people have is that the world works on policy.

Policy simply does not matter in such situations. This is entirely about identity, signaling, and sending nativists messages from the top.


I don't pretend Trump even knew or did anything directly to make this the case. I know immigration has gotten harder for some but until we know the full facts of this case, which we likely never will because the government keeps private matters private, the person could have been removed for any number of reasons. Perhaps some new information came to light, maybe a 3 letter agency notified USCIS of information that there is reason to be concerned about this student or family members. They view visas as a privilege so they'll revoke them if there's a hint of concern.

All I'm saying is without all the facts, we don't know that this wouldn't have happened under the last President either. The post-9/11 immigration policies have been rather harsh on a lot of people.

If the person is as smart as they say, there are plenty of good or better colleges they can likely go to in other countries and will be fine. It'll be our loss, not his.


Yes, it will be our loss in the long run. However, I don't give the benefit of the doubt in this case. This is what we know and we are discussing it. Holding off the conversation until all the information becomes available might be too late. If any other new information proves otherwise we'll change our conclusion.


> It baffles me the level of cognitive dissonance that must be happening in the brains of the people that support the Trump administration and how much they have to repeat to themselves that this nationalistic moron is somehow not a racist.

How does this particular issue trace back to Trump exactly? It's not as if the US hasn't been known for capricious deportations, particularly as relates to the Islamic world, for the past decade or two.

It's also worth pointing out we have a one-sided explanation from the student himself. It's entirely possible that some rather damning evidence has been left out, so how about we pause for a minute before we jump on the outrage train?


> Though Ajjawi’s situation is rare among Harvard undergraduates, in 2017 four graduate students faced similar challenges due to a then-effective travel ban instituted by the Trump Administration.

I don't know this kid's particular case, but the travel ban has been directly mapped to stuff like this. It's ridiculous.

> so how about we pause for a minute before we jump on the outrage train?

Why, exactly? Can you give me an exact amount of time I should wait before reacting?

I find it pretty irritating that whenever people want to discuss a potential direct consequence of something a politician did, people immediately act like it's unfair to start talking about things until we have "all the facts". Even if this particular case is an outlier, and that the kid is secretly the next Ted Bundy, does that mean we shouldn't be discussing potential negative consequences of bad legislation?


> I don't know this kid's particular case

Perhaps it's best to withhold outrage until you do.

> I find it pretty irritating that whenever people want to discuss a potential direct consequence of something a politician did, people immediately act like it's unfair to start talking about things until we have "all the facts".

I find it irritating when someone takes a one-sided account of a developing situation and reflexively uses it to attack their villain du-jour.

> does that mean we shouldn't be discussing potential negative consequences of bad legislation?

You weren't discussing bad legislation, just calling the sitting President a racist for the deportation, for which we don't have full details, which has also been a common feature of a number of prior administrations.

You're not discussing anything, you're ranting and attacking.


>How does this particular issue trace back to Trump exactly?

Well, I'm feeling lucky, so I think I'll pick; 'The increase in frequency directly following his election campaign promises and attempts as President, to institute a ban on muslims travelling to the US.', for $200.


Jared Kushner managed to get into Harvard, and by all accounts, he isn't very bright. It matters how they got in.


One thing that seems fairly obvious is that HN tends to neuter political discussions that upset certain sides within certain geographies. Discussing the current politics of Hong Kong or Brazil is much more accepted than US migration or Brexit. The latter are clearly not considered polite topics for the dinner table...


Hong Kong is a migration issue. So there is a lot for the US and the rest of the world to learn there. A lot of mainland Chinese are working in Hong Kong and this has put increasing pressure on property prices as well as depressed wages. Hong Kong has extreme income and wealth inequality so what you are seeing there is a place at its breaking point. I don't know for sure but I am guessing it's probably challenging for a Hong Kong resident to leave and work in China, you probably need a visa and a work permit. In addition they would be giving up some of their freedom by doing so. And if you are unskilled labor I imagine that is even more difficult to do so.

Brazil also has massive income inequality. They have rising crime and a failing economy which lead to the rise of Bolsonaro. Reading about Bolsonaro and his rise to power is quite illuminating. A conservative authoritarian wave has been building since the 1970s world wide. Also his electorate where mainly influenced millennials which is really troubling. They basically responded to an idea/ideology without thinking things through.

In the US the border crisis is largely manufactured. Yes, people are coming here. They are escaping worse situations at home, seeking a better life for themselves and their kids. The previous policy was "catch and release" sounds bad but 90% of the undocumented immigrants continued to appear and processed through the system. Families were not separated and these people mostly went to family and friends already in the US and had support. Some could work pending their court appearances. That is the most American response to have, let people work! Putting them in cages helps no-one but the for profit prison industry.

We also see large examples of whole industries where immigrants are necessary to keep food prices low. The examples here are restaurants and food processors as well as in farming. So if there is a demand for these workers we should have a work visa system where people can earn their way in. We could say hey no more, but you will get inflation (if you raise wages... but even then there are no Americans who want to do the work) or a contraction. New businesses won't be able to develop at all. My guess is that industry will demand that the prison labor population be used to maintain competitiveness. The problem with the work visa approach though is that over time these folks will want representation (either unionization). So there is a lot of pressure to keep people undocumented.

Brexit is also about immigration and housing costs as well.


There seems to be a global movement against migration, which is in one sense pretty funny. I kinda like the ones who think they are vikings, 'vikings against migration', being one of the most wonderous concepts of the modern age. I guess they have forgotten the bits about all the boats and stuff.

One thing I have been saying to those here in the UK who are against migration is that firstly, nobody in the UK gets to complain about migration. Not until the last vestiges of the largest empire the world has ever known, have finally faded from view, at the very least. Though we are working on that. But still, the British diaspora is ridiculous in scope and it would probably be wisest not to mention it, in case somebody notices. And secondly, if you think the refugee problem from our middle eastern adventures is bad, wait till you see the one that will result from all the oil we are burning.




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