Saturday, February 25, 2017

Muhammad Ali Jr. and Champs's Second Wife, Khalilah, Detained at Florida Airport: Profiling?

I'm not sure what to make of this. According to reports, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, the second wife of the late boxer, Muhammad Ali and his son, Muhammad Ali Jr. were detained and question at the airport in Florida by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. Now, this is interesting, at least to me, for a few reasons. First, both individuals were singled out for "random" questioning following their arrival at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport from Montego Bay in Jamaica, where Ali Junior had attended a "Black History Month" event (as an aside, both Khalilah and her son live within a half an hour of the Ft. Lauderdale airport). Jamaica is on the government's "watch list" because of the number of folks trying to smuggle drugs in (It's not as common as it was during the smuggling days of the later 1960's through the 1980's, but it still occasionally happens). That's not really a big deal. Second, both individuals were asked if they were Muslims, which they answered in the affirmative after the immigration agent saw their names on their respective passports.

Apparently, "something" must have happened to trigger the agent's attention and both were hustled off to separate rooms to be questioned, presumably as to their reason for entering the country. Nevertheless, the late champ's wife, was able to convince officials who she was and even produced a photo of her and her ex-husband (Khalilah was married to Ali from 1967 until 1977 and had four children together, Maryum, Rasheda, Jamillah, and Muhammad Ali Jr, who had a estranged relationship with their famous father). Unfortunately, her son wasn't quite so lucky. He remained in custody for close to two hours, under questioning while his mother tried to persuade immigration officials who he was. Eventually, he was freed and mother and son were permitted to leave.

As I said, I can understand being randomly singled out, especially when coming from a country on the "watch list". It's happens. It's usually is just a minor inconvenience and takes a up some of your time, but ultimately they simply apologize for the delay and you're back on your way; a little ruffled but no worse for wear. Secondly, when the immigration agent asked for their passport and other ID, "something" must have happened to arouse their suspension (I'm giving them the benefit of doubt here). Yes, their names are Muslim sounding, but that can't be all that unusual, especially these days. But what happened next? Was something said or was there some subtle body language which raised the hairs on the back of the agent's neck? Whatever it was, it resulted in them being taken to separate rooms to be questioned (perhaps "interrogated" would be a better word). Apparently, they were questioned as to where they were born, why had they gone to Jamaica, what did they do there, who did they speak with, why were they flying back into this particular airport and where were they headed; typical 101 level questioning. (I doubt any rubber hoses or Play-doh filled socks were produced during either interview). Meanwhile, "Momma" Ali was apparently allowed access to her purse or suitcase and was able to produce a picture of herself and the champ.

Based on this evidence, she was allowed to gather up her stuff and leave. However, when she couldn't find her son, Muhammad, she was informed that he was still being questioned. Why? Didn't the two teams compare notes? Didn't the team which questioned Khalilah fail to speak with the other group? If so, he should have been cleared and freed immediately. Again, "something" is wrong here. Any interrogation team should be in constant communication with any other team, if, for no other reason, except to review the direction and responses of the questioning. Nevertheless, with the intervention of their family attorney, Chris Mancini, and possibly others, Muhammad Ali Junior was finally freed.

Some are already calling this "profiling" and there is, naturally, talk of a lawsuit. Under the circumstances, it certainly sounds like profiling, at least on the surface. Of course, what kind of "profiling" was this---"Vacationing While Black? Travelling Under a Non-Traditional Name? Possession of a Non-Famous Photo ID? Perhaps it was simply traveling from a country on the "watch list" or they were acting a little overly nervous. Maybe it was wearing gaudy clothes or copping an attitude. I don't know. I would hope the immigration agent was well experienced and had a good reason to do what they did. Still, from what we know of their detention and questioning (which is very little), it wasn't handled properly. There should have been closer interaction between the two teams of "interviewers", and that didn't appear to happen. Once Khalilah Camacho-Ali was cleared, and barring anything done or said by Muhammad (such as mouthing off like his famous dad), he should have been immediately released. I think it's good that a borders and airports are being watched again, I just hope they're watching the right people.


Muhammad Ali Jr detained by immigration at Florida airport


1 comment:

Another Opinion said...

Just a brief followup. Since this article was originally published, Muhammad Ali Junior has testifed before a Congressial subcommittee on border security and being detained by Border Security for alledgedly having a "Muslim name". Somewhat amusingly, after his testimoney, the Champ's son and mother headed to the Washington airport where they were detained for a second time! I suspect something more is going on here than we're being told.