A Minnesota Transit officer was fired after he was caught on video asking a light rail passenger when he was in the country illegally.
After the exchange with the transit driver, 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 took place on 14 May and was captured on cell phone video. The officer is given the question Vences-Lopez for a government issued identity card after an apparent ticket dispute. When Vences-Lopez shook his head, the officer asks: “Are you here illegally?”
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That video eventually went viral. The police released a statement on Saturday saying that the officer no longer was an employee of the department.
“We… work to restore the trust that was broken by these isolated incidents,” according to a statement released by Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington. “…The image of a single officer to ask for immigration status is not a reflection of, nor represent, the practices and procedures of the Metro Transit officers.”
The statement says that Vences-Lopez was picked up by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents days after his arrest, but three days before the video was posted on Facebook. The ministry said that there is no reference to his immigration status on the declaration to the police and the ICE was not contacted.
Vences-Lopez is awaiting deportation to Mexico.
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Minneapolis is not a “sanctuary city”, but since 2003 has an ordinance on the books to prevent police from asking about a person’s immigration status unless it is relevant to a crime.
Harrington said that he remembers 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 communicate with our employees, without fear.”