WASHINGTON – The son of the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali told members of Congress Thursday he believes his recent detention for extended questioning at a Florida airport shows the need for legislation to end racial profiling.
Democratic lawmakers asked Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, to speak and answer questions at a forum highly critical of President Donald Trump's immigration policies. No Republicans attended.
Ali said he was detained for more than 90 minutes upon returning to the U.S. last month from Jamaica. He said agents asked him who gave him his name and his religion.
Ali said he felt like his "human rights" were violated.
"I felt just like I felt at my father's funeral. I didn't know what to think. I was just dumbfounded," Ali said.
Ali and his mother both challenged lawmakers to "step into the ring" and support legislation that has over the years struggled to make it out of committee. Supporters expanded the legislation's scope this year to explicitly ban religious profiling by law enforcement agencies, a move they said was necessary to counter what they consider anti-Muslim sentiment in policies enacted by the Trump administration.
The legislation would provide grants to law enforcement agencies that adopt best practices and training to prevent profiling.
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said Ali Jr. was held for questioning, but not because of his name or religion.
The Trump administration recently issued travel restrictions that it says are aimed at keeping would-be terrorist out of the country while the government reviews vetting systems for refugees and visa applicants from certain parts of the world.