Transit cop fired after asking for commuter’s immigration status

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A Minnesota Transit officer was fired after he was caught on video asking a light rail passenger if he was in the country illegally.

After the exchange with the transit officer, the passenger, Ariel Vences-Lopez, 23, was arrested for fare evasion and was taken to the Hennepin County jail in Minneapolis. He was eventually placed on a detainer for immigration violations, the Star Tribune reported.

The incident occurred May 14 and was captured on cellphone video. The officer is seen asking Vences-Lopez for a government-issued ID after an apparent ticket dispute. When Vences-Lopez shook his head, the officer asks: “Are you here illegally?”

That video eventually went viral. The police chief released a statement on Saturday saying the officer no longer was an employee of the department.

“We… are working to reestablish the trust that was broken by this isolated incident,” said a statement released by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington. “…The image of a single officer’s questioning immigration status is not reflective of, nor does it represent, the practices and procedures of Metro Transit officers.”

The statement said that Vences-Lopez was picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents days after his arrest – but three days before the video was posted on Facebook. The department said there was no reference to his immigration status on the police report and ICE was not contacted.

Vences-Lopez is awaiting deportation to Mexico.

Minneapolis is not a “sanctuary city” but since 2003 has had an ordinance in the books preventing police officers from asking about a person’s immigration status unless it’s relevant to a crime.

Harrington said he is reminding all the officers about the laws in the books.

“We strongly value our relationship with all of the communities we serve,” he said, “and fully understand the importance of our riders’ need to feel confident that they can interact with our officers without fear.”