Transit Cop Investigated After Quizzing Passenger On Immigration Status

Exchange on Minneapolis train goes viral.

This rail cop may have stepped over the line.

Viral video of a Minneapolis transit officer asking a train passenger whether he “was here illegally” has prompted an internal affairs investigation. 

“It is not the practice of the Metro Transit police to inquire about the immigration status of our riders,” Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said Friday in a statement on Facebook.

“The main priority for our officers is to ensure that our riders and the communities we serve are safe,” Harrington said. “Our officers do this by enforcing our local and state statutes and have not been trained or empowered to act as federal immigration authorities.”

Another passenger, Ricardo Levins Morales, initiated the uproar when he filmed the May 14 exchange and posted it to Facebook on Friday.

The unidentified officer inquires about the commuter’s name and if he has a state ID before asking about his legal status.

Morales then interjects: “Are you guys authorized to act as immigration police?” 

“No, not necessarily,” the officer answers. Morales then points out that the officer is heading into touchy legal territory, and the cop appears to relent at the end of the clip.

Morales told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the interrogated passenger “didn’t have a satisfactory answer” when the officer asked for proof that he paid his fare.

So Morales began filming “because these are the kinds of situations that can escalate quickly,” he said in the paper.

Ana Pottratz Acosta, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, who specializes in immigration issues, told the CBS affiliate that authorities who overstep boundaries into immigration enforcement “run the risk of inadvertently committing some type of discrimination. Their actions could be viewed as profiling.”

A Metro Transit spokesman told HuffPost on Monday the investigation into the incident was ongoing.