kwame citizenship

Hero who helped subdue shoe bomber becomes citizen

    

ATLANTA — Kwame James waited nearly 10 years to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen, a long time compared with the time he spent helping subdue would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid on a trans-Atlantic flight.

James, now 32, wore a gray pinstriped suit and blue tie this week during the ceremony, which ended years of immigration limbo that began after he helped thwart the terror attack aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight in December 2001.

The 6-foot-8 basketball player was napping when a flight attendant roused him. Ten rows back, Reid was scuffling with passengers and the crew after he tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes. James helped tie up Reid with belts and headset wires, and took turns holding Reid by his ponytail with another passenger until the plane could land in Boston.

Nearly 10 years later, James would rather talk about how happy he is to be a new citizen and his passion for music.

“I became a citizen of one of the best countries in the world and I am very happy,” he said Friday, a day after he was sworn in as a citizen in Atlanta. “All the things that people come here for, that’s what I’m here for, the opportunity. You can come from nothing and become something here, just through hard work.”

James, who was born in Canada and raised in Trinidad, played professional basketball in France. He had been traveling to the U.S. to meet his then-girlfriend and take her to his family’s home in Trinidad for the holidays. He returned to France after the trip but asked his basketball coach for some time off when the reality of the flight’s close call set in.

“I didn’t understand the magnitude of what happened at first,” he said.

He entered the U.S. as a tourist but later realized he couldn’t overstay his visa if he wanted to become a citizen later. He agreed to testify against Reid, but the government seemed to turn its back on him after Reid pleaded guilty before trial in October 2002, said his immigration lawyer, Michael Wildes.

Wildes was shocked that someone who had acted heroically might lose permission to stay in the U.S., and he volunteered during a nationally televised news show to take the case for free.

Wildes brought James’ case to the attention of then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Rep. Joe Crowley. He also helped James apply for a visa that allowed him to play basketball.

James, who had played two years in high school in the U.S. and then four years of Division I at the University of Evansville in Indiana, made the cut for the minor league Brooklyn Kings. The assistant coach and co-owner of the team, Dan Liebman, said the two “became like brothers” and even let James crash at his apartment.

“He’s an incredible class act through and through,” Liebman said. “People should model their children after him.”

James married his girlfriend, Jill, and became a legal permanent resident. After several more years, he applied for citizenship and was finally sworn in Thursday.

After giving up basketball, James got a job as a sales representative for Pfizer but later was laid off. Having shown he could get a job on his own, James felt comfortable accepting help offered by Liebman and agreed just over a year ago to move to Atlanta to help expand his friend’s IT staffing firm in the Southeast.

Given his love for hip-hop and urban music, James was happy to move with his wife and two young children and be near the city’s vibrant music scene.

For now, though, he’s just looking forward to something he’s never done in the U.S.: “I can’t wait to vote in the next election.”

For Further Information On How We Can Help Your Firm Meet Its Employment Eligibility Verification Obligations, Please Contact Amy Wildes At amy@wildeslaw.com

In The News

Testimonials

I received my Green Card from Michael Wildes and his firm some days ago. The petition approval and Green Card release represent a real achievement for people like me in the US. Michael Wildes and his team are excellent, and...

Luca Zammataro Date : November 22, 2022

Dear Michael Wildes, my husband and I would like to thank you and your team,  the work was not easy, especially in the statement, there were a lot of flaws, but we managed to correct everything in a short time,...

Jacques Carline Date : August 3, 2022

Our client David came to us after spending more than three years stuck in the immigration court morass with another attorney. His individual hearing wasn’t scheduled to occur for over a year, and he thought it might get pushed off...

David E. Date : June 8, 2022

Josh Wildes and Yoni Jonas are amazing! We sought Wildes & Weinberg help because our application for naturalization was taking a long time and seemed to be stuck in the system indefinitely. Within two weeks of submitting our paperwork to...

Daniela Bustamante Date : June 1, 2022

Michael Wildes and the rest of the team at Wildes & Weinberg were tremendously helpful in navigating us through the complexities of the immigration process. We are really happy with their service and would 100% recommend them to anyone looking...

Alan Herskowich and Nicole Woroszylski Date : May 26, 2022

Michael and his team are very professional and they always deliver. If you're looking to hire the best possible immigration law firm, you don't have to look any further, Wildes & Weinberg is the one.

Nick Holmstren Date : January 7, 2022

Walter Gottschalk and Michael Wildes at Wildes & Weinberg P.C Law Offices have been fantastic partners in our immigration journey. They were professional and helpful. I would recommend them without hesitation.

Bruno Caron and Melanie St. Amour Date : December 2, 2021

Video Testimonials

  • Book Launch

  • Book Warming

  • Riley Keough

  • Boy George

  • Lionel Richie

  • Stuart Varney

Quick Contact

*All fields are mandatory

Best Immigration Lawyer, Attorneys in NYC, New York