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'Are you here illegally?' Metro Transit probes video of officer checking rider's immigration status

The Metropolitan Council has launched an internal investigation after video surfaced of an officer approaching a man on a light-rail train and asking if he was "here illegally?"

The incident was caught on camera on May 14 by Ricardo Levins Morales.

According to Morales, two Metro Transit police officers entered the train and asked passengers for proof they had paid the train fare. One young man, "didn't have a satisfactory answer" for the officer, Morales told the Star Tribune. That's when Morales started recording.

The video posted on Facebook on May 20 has over 1 million views. In the clip, the officer asks the man, "Do you have a state ID?" The man appears to shake his head no.

"Are you here illegally?" the officer asks next.

Morales then intervenes and asks the officer, "Are you guys authorized to act as immigration police?"

"No, not necessarily," the officer says.

Morales tells the officer, "Then I would stay out of that. It's very touchy legal territory."

The officer nonchalantly shrugs and says, "OK."

The name of the part-time officer has not yet been released.

Minneapolis has called itself a sanctuary city since 2003. Under a city ordinance city employees, including police, are prohibited from asking about the immigration status of someone unless it's directly relevant to a crime being investigated.

Following the release of the video, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington issued a statement promising an investigation:

"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.

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

The Blue Line train on which Morales was riding on connects the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis.

Morales told the Star Tribune, "You can say we're a sanctuary city, and it's a nice phrase, but it only has meaning if it actually affects people's behavior."

Minneapolis is among at least three dozen other cities that have brought suit, individually or jointly, challenging President Trump's sanctuary cities executive order. Under Trump's plan, federal grant money for sanctuary cities would be cut.

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