Muhammad Ali Jr. Questioned By Immigration Officials At Washington Airport
Muhammad Ali Jr., son of the famous boxer, was questioned by immigration officials for the second time.
Ali was held at Washington Airport where he was questioned by the DHS on the phone. Last month, the same thing happened to him at a Florida airport, where he was asked about his Muslim faith.
The incident was first reported in a tweet sent Friday afternoon from the account of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.: “On way home on DOMESTIC FLIGHT Muhammad Ali Jr. detained AGAIN by @DHSgov. Religiously profiling son of ‘The Greatest’ will not make us safe.” Wasserman Schultz was on the same plane with Ali, and posted a picture of the two of them.
— D Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) March 10, 2017
The TSA said it did not detain Ali Jr., but only stopped him to verify his identity. In an email to The Courier-Journal, a TSA spokesman wrote, “The TSA does not have the authority to detain passengers, and that did not happen.”
According to the TSA, “a call was made to confirm Mr. Ali’s identity with TSA officials.” After 11 minutes, he was eventually cleared and sent to the security checkpoint. At the checkpoint, Ali Jr.’s “large jewelry” set off the scanner, and he was patted down by agents. After a seven-minute screening he was cleared to catch his flight.
In a phone interview Friday, Ali Jr.’s lawyer, Chris Mancini, said the phone call at the ticket counter lasted 20 minutes and called the TSA statement a “pack full of lies.” Mancini said Ali Jr. was trying to get his boarding pass when the computer “flagged” him. The ticket agent rejected his Illinois state-issued ID and put Ali Jr. on the phone with the Department of Homeland Security. Ali Jr. was asked over the phone to verify his date of birth and where he was born. He was not asked about his religion. Eventually, Ali Jr. voluntarily gave his passport to the ticket agent, who read the passport number over the phone. Only then was Ali Jr. cleared. No explanation was given for the delay.
“It was either sloppy, suspect or designed to keep him from boarding,” Mancini said.
In an email exchange with the Courier-Journal, a TSA spokesman bristled at the suggestion Ali Jr. was detained, writing, “In the security world detain means to take into custody. … We don’t do that. Law enforcement does.” The spokesman would not say why TSA questioned Ali Jr. but said he was free to walk out of the airport had he decided not to fly.