Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Are you here illegally?"--Abuse of power---"It is not the practice of the Metro Transit police to inquire about the immigration status of our riders."

This is why it is important that we speak up when folks are being targeted by authorities.
What if Richardo Levins Morales had not spoken up?

Abuse of power caught on camera; this is why folks it is important to carry your cell phone to catch stray acts of intimidation in action.
This is why it is important that we speak up when folks are being targeted by authorities. What if Richardo Levins Morales had not spoken ...
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When A Transit Officer Questioned Someone's Immigration Status, Another Passenger Stepped in

"Are you here illegally?"



MAY 25, 2017

Cellphone video appearing to show a police officer questioning a man's immigration status on public transportation in Minneapolis has locals speaking out.

According to The Washington Post, the incident in question was caught on camera on May 14 by a man named Ricardo Levins Morales and is now under internal investigation. Morales says two Metro transit police officers boarded the train and asked passengers for proof they had paid the train fare. When one man "didn't have a satisfactory answer" to the query, Morales tells the The Star Tribune that he instinctively began recording the interaction "because these are the kinds of situations that can escalate quickly."

In the exchange, you can clearly hear the officer, who is a part-time employee, ask the man if he has a state ID. Before the man can verbally reply, the officer follows up with, "Are you here illegally?"

That's when Morales jumped in and, while still recording the confrontation, questioned if the transit officers are authorized to act as immigration police.

When the officer admitted he was "not necessarily" permitted to act as immigration police, Morales drove his point home. "I would stay out of that, it's very touchy legal territory," he can be heard saying. "I would not act on behalf of another agency if you're not legally empowered to do so."

The officer then backed off (seemingly thanks to Morales's intervention) but the matter is far from resolved. Since Morales shared the brief video on May 19, it has been viewed 1.3 million times and liked by 3.7 million users.

In a Facebook post shared last Friday, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said, "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."


He added, "It is not the practice of the Metro Transit police to inquire about the immigration status of our riders."

As The Washington Post points out, when Minneapolis declared itself a sanctuary city in 2003, a city ordinance prohibited city employees (including police) from inquiring about a person's immigration unless it's directly relevant to a crime under investigation.

"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," Harrington's statement concluded.

Though laws may vary from state to state, the American Civil Liberties Union outlines what you should do (and what you have a legal right to do) if you are stopped by police, immigration agents, or the FBI. According to the organization, you have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.

The ACLU also notes that, regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.

As evidenced by the incident in Minneapolis, the single most critical thing you can do as a bystander or as someone being questioned is to know your rights. As soon as Mr. Morales intervened and questioned the officer's authority, the officer backed off, but had Morales not spoken up, the situation could have transpired very differently.

If you suspect your rights have been violated via police misconduct or if you see someone else's rights being abridged, you can file a written complaint with the agency's internal affairs division or civilian complaint board and contact the ACLU for further assistance.

Morales, for one, is thankful for the quick thinking that lead him to turn on his cellphone camera, and he's pleased his video is being so widely disseminated. "That was my hope," he told The Star Tribune. "I wanted to make sure it was visible to people who would put pressure on Metro Transit."

Cover image via Shutterstock / Sam Wagner.

Julie Ali
 This is poor conduct and should not be tolerated. It feels like intimidation and why do this junk?

Reply15 mins

Shannon Hutton I cannot beleive some of the comments here. The Chief stated it is under investigation and they will handle it. For those who do not know, it is an internal investigation - not to be tried in the media or on Facebook. It is common sense people. I am sure once it has been dealt with, Chief Harrington will let you know what he deems necessary.

May 20 at 6:36pm
Julie Ali Usually what happens is nothing gets done. This is how problems in government are handled in Alberta at least.

Reply12 mins

Pete Speicher
 Stepped out of line for helping enforce federal law, so is Minneapolis now a sanctuary City??? Load of crap, support your men chief #BuildTheWall

May 20 at 5:48pmEdited
Kelsey Lindsay Minneapolis has BEEN a sanctuary city. And local police (particularly transit police) are not to enforce federal immigration law.

May 21 at 8:30am
Kathy Brown Pete, you got that right! These fools have tons of illegal Somalis terrorizing the city and the cops 24/7 and they still don't have the sense to come in out of the rain. MAGA-GO Pres. Trump!

May 21 at 6:56pm
Nick Tulloh Kathy Brown apparently you didn't study very hard at that school of law

May 22 at 5:54am
Kelsey Lindsay Hey Kathy - I live in Minnesota, looks like you are from MO? Anyway - in the state of Minnesota we know that our immigrant population makes us a better state - the Somalis in this state are dedicated, hard working individual's who have bettered MN. And MN is a better state for having brought them in. Our state is in no way "terrorized" 24/7; in fact, we're highly ranked as a desirable state to live in by practically every metric. 

Turn off the garbage news you're listening to and actually talk to locals to form an opinion of the state and it's people that you're demonizing. If we all just made assumptions about people based on where they're from...well MO has it's own host of stereotypes, doesn't it? And you seem to have checked the racist/bigot box quote nicely with your comment here.

May 22 at 6:09am
Qadra Osman Xaashi Your amazing Kelsey! 

May 23 at 12:25am
Joyce Kendle At least he is getting deported, after all, he is illegal. He broke the law. 🤗
Julie Ali Kathy Brown It's not very polite to call folks "fools" when they are simply stating their opinion. Also I believe once the Trump era is over the folks who voted him in will note he has a ton of cash and the citizens have a great deal less cash. It may be that Mr. Trump is magical and can build a wall that will save y'all but in Canada we don't need a wall. We're just nice people.

ReplyJust now

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