The boxing match between Muhammad Ali’s son and the White House may just be entering its second round a month after he was detained by immigration officials at an airport in Florida.
On Thursday, Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother, Khalilah Camacho Ali, will meet to meet with lawmakers in Washington to discuss the issue and their experience last month of being held at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport by immigration officials. The two, who were returning from a Black History Month event in Jamaica on Feb. 7, were detained by authorities and asked if they were Muslim. They were also constantly forced to explain their relationship to the former heavyweight champion.
“I’m paranoid. I’m just waiting for somebody to mess with me. That’s not a good feeling when you have to travel,” Khalilah Camacho Ali told the Associated Press when asked how the incident has affected her.
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 Alis are calling for an end to President Trump’s travel ban and are launching a “Step Into the Ring” campaign, drawing on the support of former boxing greats including Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes and Roberto Duran. They are framing the effort directly as a fight against the president, using the hashtag #AlivsTrump.
The Alis were invited by Democrats to a forum organized by members of the House subcommittee on border security. The Alis will address lawmakers and push to testify at a formal hearing.
“There shouldn’t be a travel ban,” said Khalilah Camacho Ali. “If I don’t speak up now, they’re going to keep harassing us.”
The experience left them convinced that they were targeted because they are Muslim and have Arabic names. Both were born in the United States. Khalilah Camacho Ali, who was born and raised Muslim, said she has always fought for religious rights, and pushed her former husband to use his fame to do the same.
“We, as a family, have been fighting this for a very long time,” she said. “We are going to continue to fight for religious justice.”
Trump has shown admiration for Ali in the past, calling Ali a “truly great champion” when the boxer died of Parkinson’s disease in June. Trump also singled out an Ali exhibit during a recent visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington.
The president signed his first travel ban a week into his presidency. The executive order sparked confusion across the country, causing chaotic scenes at airports and prompting lawsuits.
This week, he announced a revised version that bars new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily shuts down America’s refugee program. It also removes Iraq from the list of banned countries and removes language prioritizing religious minorities that some viewed as a way to help Christians get into the United States while excluding Muslims.
The new order is set to take effect on March 16.
With reporting by Associated Press