Politics

Officials Detain Muhammad Ali's Muslim Son At Airport

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Muhammad Ali's son was detained for hours by immigration at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport in Florida after returning from a trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

On Feb. 7, 44-year-old Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, were pulled aside by customs officials because of their Arabic-sounding names, family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini told the Courier-Journal.

When Camacho-Ali showed immigration officials a photo of deceased ex-husband boxer Ali Sr., and herself, she was released. But Ali Jr. did not have a photo to show them, and according to Mancini, he was held for nearly two hours. Officials allegedly asked him, "Where did you get your name from?" and, "Are you Muslim?"

Ali Jr. is Muslim, and told officials as much, which prompted them to continue questioning him about his religion and where he was born. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1972 and is the holder of a U.S. passport.

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"This is an outrage," Mancini said, according to the Miami New Times. "I don't know what is going on with [President Donald Trump's] claim that his ban is not religion-based. We do not discriminate in this country based on religion."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency would not provide details to the Courier-Journal on the incident: "Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot discuss individual travelers; however, all international travelers arriving in the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection."

Camacho-Ali, after being released from detainment, asked local police at the airport, "Where's my son?" and was begging for help, Mancini said. They could not assist her because customs officials are reportedly considered to be on federal soil and therefore police do not have jurisdiction.

Mancini believes the questioning Ali Jr. underwent is a sign of profiling and designed to make detainees give answers that corroborate what officials want to hear. This is the first time Ali Jr. and his mother have been detained by customs, even though they travel to international destinations quite often.

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"To the Ali family, it's crystal clear that this is directly linked to Mr. Trump's efforts to ban Muslims from the United States," Mancini said, referring to Trump's executive order signed Jan. 27 that started a 90-day ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the country.

Mancini said that the Ali family is considering filing a federal lawsuit, and they are looking into how many other people may have had the same treatment.

"Imagine walking into an airport and being asked about your religion," he said. "This is classic customs profiling."

A court ruling temporarily put Trump's immigration ban on hold, according to The Globe and Mail. The president, rather than fight in court over the order, said that he will introduce a new version "tailored to what I consider to be a very bad decision."

While Homeland Security said that it has stopped enforcing the ban, Mancini thinks Muslims are still being targeted by customs officials.

"What right does the United States have to inquire about somebody's religion when they enter the country?" Mancini said, according to Miami New Times. "There was no other basis for a secondary inspection. This is an instance where the ban has been enforced even though it has been thrown out. The government is still trying to find grounds to keep Muslims out."

Sources: Courier-Journal, Miami New Times, The Globe and Mail / Photo credit: Ali family via Miami New Times

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