Minneapolis artist, and political agitator, Ricardo Levins Morales shot a cell phone video of a brief, polite interaction between a Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Transit Police officer and a passenger on the Twin Cities airport light rail system. The video went viral and provoked total outrage. Citizens voiced concern that the police were engaging in abusive policing tactics. What images caused such shock and outrage? The unpardonable sin committed by the officer: asking a passenger whether he was in the United States illegally.
The unnamed officer also showed remarkable restraint when Levins Morales advised him to drop that line of questioning because it was “touchy legal territory.” It is unclear why Levins Morales felt it necessary to intervene during a peaceful engagement between a police officer and a member of the public. Although, Levins Morales is a Puerto Rican nationalist with self-admitted ties to the violent Black Panthers and Young Lords terror groups. Both organizations were notoriously anti-law enforcement. Thus he may simply have been trolling for a controversy.
The official response was typical. Without asking any questions about why Levins Morales saw fit to harass an officer politely and professionally performing a lawful investigative stop, the transit police opened an internal affairs investigation. Of course, the news coverage of this non-event unwittingly exposes both the absurdity and hypocrisy running wild in the Twin Cities.
First, none of the news outlets seems to have found an “expert” willing to say that state and local police officers are barred from ever asking about a person’s immigration status. Mitchell Hamline Law School professor Ana Pottratz Acosta noted that, “State and local law enforcement run the risk of inadvertently committing some type of discrimination,” when involved in immigration enforcement. However, that’s a long way from articulating a legal basis for prohibiting all state and local police from ever asking anyone about immigration status. And if Minnesota law enforcement agencies are truly concerned about potential civil rights violations they could easily ensure that their officers get the proper training in immigration law enforcement by partnering with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the 287(g) federal/state collaboration program.
In addition, the Metro Transit Police has been working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for over a decade. Federal officers regularly ride the Twin Cities airport light rail as part of VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response task forces. Apparently, Minneapolis and St. Paul have no problem assisting federal law enforcement efforts – unless they relate to immigration enforcement.
Taxpayers in The North Star State should be wondering why the transit police are wasting time and resources investigating an officer who asked a mundane question during an investigative stop. Within the past six months, a Somali immigrant raped a woman on a Minneapolis bus and the MS-13 street gang (whose members are overwhelmingly Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Mexican immigrants) went on a kidnapping and torture spree in St. Paul. And those are just two of the crimes committed by immigrants in Minnesota during the last year. Apparently the political leadership of Minneapolis and St. Paul prize political correctness over safety. Rest assured, Twin Cities’ police officers will take notice. Then they’ll stop asking the types of questions that might actually save a life by identifying a criminal alien.