Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the late boxing legend and civil rights hero, is considering legal action after he was detained this month at a Florida airport and questioned about his religion, the family’s lawyer said Saturday.
According to Chris Mancini, border agents pulled the 44-year-old Ali aside for secondary questioning at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Feb 7. as he and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, returned from a trip to Jamaica.
Agents released Camacho-Ali, Muhammad Ali’s second wife, when she presented a photo of herself with her ex-husband. Yet they questioned her son for an hour and 45 minutes, Mancini said, repeatedly asking him: “Where were you born?” "Are you a Muslim?” and “Where did you get your name from?”
Ali, a Muslim, is a U.S. citizen who was born in Philadelphia in 1972.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that the agency could not discuss individual travelers due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act. “All international travelers arriving in the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection,” the agency added in an email.
Mancini, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said the questions struck him as “profile questions,” potentially violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as the 1st and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.
Ali’s experience, he said, appeared to be a direct result of President Trump’s efforts to subject Muslims entering the country to “extreme vetting.”
“We do not discriminate on the basis of religion — that’s been one of the basic, foundational principles of life in America since this country was founded — and then along comes Donald Trump, who pledges in his campaign that he’s going to ban all Muslims,” Mancini said.
During his first week in office, Trump signed an executive order that temporarily suspended travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations to the U.S. That order has been blocked by federal courts, but administration officials say they will soon introduce new travel restrictions targeting countries with links to terrorism.
Mancini, who is trying to collect information about similar cases for a possible federal lawsuit, said Ali’s experience suggested federal agents were using their discretion to broaden the scope of border inspections.
“The White House can’t get this done by executive order,” Mancini said. “I believe we’re starting to see that they have a program in place to do this through executive action, through the agencies he controls — Homeland Security, immigration, customs. Muhammad Ali Jr., he just stepped into that.”
Ali is not the first traveler to complain about treatment by immigration officials in Fort Lauderdale under the Trump administration.
Earlier this month, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, a reporter who has worked for Buzzfeed and the Financial Times, reported on Twitter that her Trinidadian husband, a U.S. permanent resident, was detained for more than three hours at the Fort Lauderdale airport. Border agents quizzed him about his ethnicity and “how he got his name,” Ishmael said.