Viral Video of Transit Cop Asking for Someone’s Immigration Status Under Investigation

May 25, 2017
12:05 PM

On May 19, Ricardo Levins Morales posted the following video on his Facebook page, along with this question: “This incident occurred on the Minneapolis Blue Line light rail train, northbound on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Question of the Day: why are Metro Transit Police asking people’s immigration status???” Since then, Levins Morales’ has gotten more than 1.3 million views (and growing).

As you can imagine, this is crazy, so much so that the Metro Transit Police Chief issued a statement the same day that the video was posted:

We have a statement to share with you this evening from Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington:

“This afternoon, community members and partners alerted me to a situation in which one of my part time officers was witnessed asking an individual whether he was in the state illegally. I immediately called for an Internal Affairs investigation to gather the details about this incident and to report back to me as quickly as possible.

It is not the practice of the Metro Transit police to inquire about the immigration status of our riders. Our policy states:
“It is the policy of the Metro Transit Police Department that all members make personal and professional commitments to equal enforcement of the law and equal service to the public. Confidence in this commitment will increase the effectiveness of this department in protecting and serving the entire community and recognizing the dignity of all persons, regardless of their immigration status.”

Metro Transit and our parent organization, the Metropolitan Council, believe strongly in the need for our riders to feel safe in our relationship with our officers. The main priority for our officers is to ensure that our riders and the communities we serve are safe. Our officers do this by enforcing our local and state statutes and have not been trained or empowered to act as Federal Immigration authorities.

At this time, no further details regarding this specific incident are available.”

On Wednesday, protesters disrupted a Metropolitan Council meeting in St. Paul, calling for Harrington to fire the police officer.