The eldest son of beloved boxer and American legend Muhammad Ali was detained by immigration officials for hours at a Florida airport earlier this month as he and his mother returned to the country from a speaking engagement abroad.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that 44-year-old Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, arrived at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7 upon returning from a Black History Month speaking engagement in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and they were pulled aside while going through customs.
Camacho-Ali, Muhammad Ali’s second wife, was reportedly let go after she was able to produce a photograph of herself with her legendary ex-husband, but her son did not have a photo like that with him, and he was detained.
Family friend and lawyer Chris Mancini told the Courier-Journal that Ali Jr. was held and questioned for nearly two hours. Officials repeatedly asked him, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”
From the Courier-Journal:
When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport.
Reached for comment via email Friday, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection wrote, “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.”
The line of questioning is indicative of profiling and designed to produce answers that corroborate what officials want to hear, Mancini said. Neither Camacho-Ali nor Ali Jr. have ever been subjected to detainment before, despite extensive global travel experience, he said.
“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 Jan. 27 executive order that temporarily banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
More from the Courier-Journal:
Officials at the Fort Lauderdale airport did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Camacho-Ali and Ali Jr. live in Deerfield Beach, Fla., a 20-minute drive from the airport. While Ali Jr. was detained, Camacho-Ali ran around the airport asking, “Where’s my son?” and begging for help, according to Mancini. Because incidents involving customs officials are considered to be on federal soil, local police had no jurisdiction to help her. Ali Jr. was eventually released two hours later, and the family contacted Mancini the following day.
Mancini told the Courier-Journal that he and the Ali family are considering filing a federal lawsuit and are currently trying to find out how many people have been subjected to the same type of treatment Ali Jr. received.
“Imagine walking into an airport and being asked about your religion,” Mancini said. “This is classic customs profiling.”
Read more at the Louisville Courier-Journal.