Ricardo Levins Morales / Via Facebook: video.php
Minneapolis’ Metro Transit Police Department on Saturday said an officer caught on video asking a rail rider if he was “here illegally” was no longer with the agency following an investigation.
“The officer seen in the video is no longer an employee of the Metro Transit Police Department,” said Chief John Harrington in a statement. “We also are working to reestablish the trust that was broken by this isolated incident.”
The agency declined to give additional information about the circumstances of the officers' employment status.
The May 14 video, shot by Ricardo Levins Morales on a light-rail train, shows the officer asking asking Ariel Vences-Lopez, “Are you here illegally?”
Morales told the Star Tribune that the officers were checking passengers’ fares and Vences-Lopez “didn’t have a satisfactory answer,” Morales said.
“Are you here illegally?” the unidentified officer says in the video before he’s interrupted by Morales.
“Are you guys authorized to act as immigration police?” Morales asks.
“No. Not necessarily,” the officer says shrugging.
“Then I would stay out of that. It’s very touch legal territory,” Morales says.
Vences-Lopez was booked into the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center on May 14 for fare evasion, according to police. He was then placed in ICE custody on May 16, three days before the video was posted, and is now set to be deported.
“There was no reference to his immigration status in the police reports, nor did MTPD notify ICE or any other agency of any immigration-related concerns,” Harrington said in a statement.
The incident comes amid a national debate on whether police should act as immigration agents as the Trump administration pushes for a crackdown on undocumented immigrants. So-called sanctuary jurisdictions, a practice also under attack by the administration, often refuse to hold undocumented immigrants for immigration authorities, but it’s not clear whether police in this case did.
This isn’t the first video in recent days capturing police asking someone if they’re in the country illegally. An officer in Key West was captured on video asking an undocumented immigrant if he was “illegal” after the man was hit by a truck while riding his bike.
The man in Florida is also now in the custody of immigration officials and facing deportation.