’What’s my name?’: Muhammad Ali’s son detained for 2 hours at Florida airport
“He was very shook up about it. He has never been treated like this before,” attorney Chris Mancini told RT. “He didn’t know what was going on, and asked [immigration], ‘Why are you doing this? My father is Muhammad Ali’ and they just didn’t seem to give a crap.”
“He sat there for two hours, and then they let him go,” Mancini added.
Muhammad Ali Jr., was traveling back from Jamaica with his mother, Ali’s second of four wives, Khalilah, on February 7. They flew into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when immigration officers stopped them.
Mother and Son Muhammed Ali Jr and Kahliah Ali pic.twitter.com/dEeFrtpoWe— YETicket (@yeticket) February 7, 2017
Ms. Ali showed officers a picture of herself with her ex-husband, who died last year, and was not detained. Ali Jr., an American citizen, had no such picture. He was asked twice by Customs and Border Patrol officials if he was a Muslim and “where did you get your name from?”
The incident only came to light when Mrs. Ali sought a legal opinion.
“She’s been traveling doing speaking engagements and came to see me about this,” Mancini told RT.
Mancini said he told her there were several Constitutional issues: due process, equal protection, establishment clause of the 14th Amendment, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “All of these laws prohibit this type of activity,” he said.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson, Norma Morfa, declined to comment on the incident, but said in email to the New Times, which broke the story, that “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.”
“I believe there is profiling going on. Customs does not leave these things to the training and skill of the individual officer because it varies from officer to officer,” said Mancini.
Mancini said a standardized approach would include directives like “If you see a Muslim do this…” and “If you see someone with an Arabic name, do that..”
“What I am expecting to come from all of this is a wave of people who step and say ‘I was treated the same way,’” Mancini added.
He said the family had not yet decided what legal remedy to pursue, but thinks discrimination and profiling is occurring because the same questions were used in both instances: “Where did you get your name from?”
“That’s exactly the way profiles are written. They have interconnected corroborating questions. So that just screams ‘profile,’” he added.
The incident happened four days after a federal judge put a stay on President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which prohibited residents of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days.
In January, a US citizen who works for NASA was detained by a CBP agent who forced him to hand over his phone and access code, despite the device containing sensitive NASA information.
Sidd Bikkannavar – who has worked for NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) for the past 10 years – was returning from a trip South America when he was detained at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Texas. He was detained shortly after the president's travel ban had been chaotically rolled out at airports across the country. Once agents had his information, he was released.