How does an 8-year-old boy make it on the Terror Watch List?
We all know that there’s a good chance we’ll be searched when arriving at an airport. However, what if your name is on the terror watch list? Well, it happened to an 8-year-old boy from New Jersey. His name is Michael Hicks.
Authorities believe that Michael Hicks shared his name with a suspicious person. The boy gets stopped and searched at every airport. The problems began six years ago when the family tried to fly to Florida from Newark Liberty International Airport.
Airline staff said Michael’s name was “on the list” and the boy was patted down and searched. He was just two years old at the time. Can you believe that?
Since then, he has found it hard to get on a flight without any problems. The search delays often mean the Hicks are the last to take their seats on planes and cannot sit together. Michael’s name seems to be on a government watch-list of suspicious persons, which triggers a higher level of security screening than other passengers.
When he goes through security screening, he is always pulled off to the side and met with higher ranked security officials. The list is operated by the US Terrorist Screening Centre. Copies are passed to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which hands them out to airlines.
The TSA said, as a rule, there should not be any children on the list. Even so, it would not comment on Michael’s case. After years of delays at check-in and waiting for clearance from security, the final straw came when the family recently flew to the Bahamas.
“We’ve tried everything to get him off this list and nothing has worked,” Michael’s mother Najlah Hicks said in a statement.
The Final Straw
Michael was searched on the way to the Bahamas and more forcefully on the way home. His mother felt her son was being treated like a terrorist. “He doesn’t like being touched and he gets angry. One time he said, ‘Don’t worry mum, I know tae kwon do’,” she said. In fact, there are times when he’s pulled out of the line to be searched.
Mrs Hicks said she has done everything she can to get Michael off the list. “I know there is a need for security. But it shouldn’t take eight years to get this fixed,” she said. I can’t imagine going to an airport knowing that you will be confronted with security. We’re not talking about an adult, it’s only an 8-year-old boy who’s been going through this since age 2.
However, Michael is not alone, as more than 81,000 frustrated travelers have asked the Department of Homeland Security to remove their names from the list and there are 25,000 cases pending. The Hicks have set up a Facebook group called Get Mikey Off The List. For now he will have to put up with being a suspect and doing what he’s told by airport authorities.