Transit Cop Fired after Asking for Rider’s Immigration Status

Morales Video Capture -- Minneapolis Transit Police question immigration status.
Facebook Video Screenshot/Vincent Levins Morales

The City of Minneapolis terminated a part-time transit police officer after he questioned the immigration status of a bus passenger. The inquiry came up after it appeared the man, later confirmed to be an illegal alien, could not provide proof of purchasing bus fare.

An illegal alien apparently had no answer to whether or not he had paid the fee on a Minneapolis Metropolitan Transit bus. When questioned about his fare and immigration status, a rider with a Hispanic accent asked the transit officer, “Are you guys authorized to act as immigration police?” The rider added, “It’s very touchy legal territory.”

Ricardo Levins Morales, an artist and practitioner of medicinal art, filmed the exchange and posted the video that went viral. It has over 1.1 million views. Morales is the voice in the video that questioned the officer.

Morales stopped the Metro Transit officer when he was asking the rider about his fare and whether he had a state ID.

The conversation between the officer and Morales went like this:

Morales asks the officer: “Are you guys authorized to act as immigration police?”

Officer responds: “No. Not necessarily.”

Morales exhorts the officer: “Then I would stay out of that. It’s very touchy legal territory.”

Officer: “Huh?”

Morales: “That’s very touchy legal territory. I would not act on behalf of another agency if you’re not legally empowered to do so.”

Officer: “Okay.”

Morales told the Star Tribune in Minnesota “A young man standing in front of me didn’t have a satisfactory answer” when the officer asked for proof that he paid his fare. Morales started filming the conversation at this point, “because these are the kinds of situations that can escalate quickly,” he was reported to say.

The rider on the bus has been booked in the Hennepin County Jail and officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told Breitbart Texas the man is an illegal alien. ICE officials stated that law enforcement officials at the jail notified local immigration enforcement officers they had a foreign national in custody. The ICE spokesperson said the jail runs an inmate’s fingerprints through the federal database Secure Communities Program when someone is booked into the jail. Although the jail alerted them, ICE could have also obtained this information through the Criminal Alien Program – a database where ICE officers check jail records.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington issued this statement:

It is not the practice of the Metro Transit police to inquire about the immigration status of our riders. The 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.

In a follow-up statement, Metro Transit officials stated the officer seen in the video “is no longer an employee of the Metro Transit Police Department.”

The Star-Tribune reported that police officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have increased their presence on light rail trains. The Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) team works with police forces to help with security on public buses and trains.

When asked about the viral sharing of the video, Morales told the Star Tribune, “That was my hope. I wanted to make sure it was visible to people who would put pressure on Metro Transit.”

“You can say we’re a sanctuary city, and it’s a nice phrase, but it only has meaning if it actually affects people’s behavior.”

Minneapolis is a “sanctuary city” that joined Washington State and sued President Trump over Executive Order 13679. The EO temporarily banned travel from seven countries in the Middle East. Mayor Betsy Hodge delivered her State of the City address in a mosque on May 23 – just one day after the Manchester, England terrorist attack by a Muslim suicide bomber.

Minnesota’s Health Commissioner alerted residents of the state about the dangerous and costly outbreaks of measles, tuberculosis, syphilis, and the Zika virus there, Breitbart News reported on May 10th. Minnesota is presently engaged in the largest outbreak of measles in over 20 years. Moreover, 90 percent of the active tuberculosis cases diagnosed in the state in 2016 were foreign-born. Breitbart News also reported that “The refugee community in Minnesota, and particularly the Somali refugee community, has been at the center of several recent public health issues in the state.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional information about the city’s investigation into the incident.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.