Immigration and Local Police: Still Stuck on Stupid

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.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    I’m disgusted by these illegals here all high and mighty as though it’s their territory. My neighbor is a criminal illegal and it’s about time they finally deport him like they were supposed to a few years ago. On top of that, not only is he a criminal, he is a sexual predator and EVERYONE knows it. Sick of it.

    • avatar

      So how can you not only be a criminal and a criminal at the same time?…..your hate is not focused and unjustified to categorize everybody……

      you probably live in a bad neighborhood….

      • avatar

        Bad Neighborhoods?

        That sounds like where all your rich elite Progressives for ‘Confederate Anarchy Type Slavery” supporting amnesty DON’T LIVE!

        • avatar

          So as per the same logic, you look african American that means all African Americans are racists…no!…that is why I found it interesting you as a black male making such racist comment…when there are all colors in engineering and in the manufacturing business…..must be that part of Seattle…..

          Most african americans I have meta are beautiful people….but you definitely have mental issues…..

  2. avatar

    The June 11 Puerto Rican day parade in New York has already lost a couple major sponsors and several police groups because of their decision to name Oscar Lopez Rivera as an honorary leader of the parade. He was the leader of the FALN, an extremist Puerto Rican independence group that planted bombs in the 70s and 80s in this country, killing 5 people and injuring many others.

    The reason this person happens to be out on the street, in spite of the fact that he has never apologized for anything he did, is that Obama, who loves anyone who hates America, commuted his sentence before he left office. One of the things that the left downplayed about Obama in 2008 was his political connection with terrorist William Ayers.

    The fact the Puerto Rican community chooses to honor this person is a slap in the face to the American public. It’s always claimed that Puerto Rico is a “colony” of the US, which ignores the fact that the island has had several referendums since the 50s in which they were offered the choice of independence, statehood, or continuation of commonwealth status. They have always chosen the status quo, because they pay no taxes on income they earn on the island and receive massive amounts of US monetary assistance. Now that they have run the island into bankruptcy, they want to become a state, No thanks, we don’t need more millions on welfare. Half the island already gets Medicaid.

  3. avatar

    Matt There is a fine line and agree with National Security concerns and the need to avoid criminal activity …..

    Well, this is what I found in Google

    Can police ask for papers?
    So if police ever ask you to show ID during your travels, it’s natural to feel violated. IN A FREE SOCIETY, citizens who are minding their own business are not obligated to “show their papers” to police. In fact, in the United States there’s no law requiring citizens to carry identification of any kind.

    • avatar

      We don’t Require Papers in America????

      Ya mean ya ca drive without a license and fish/hunt without one too? You Progressives have no brain. Vote without a voter ID????

      You’d like that wouldn’t you.

      • avatar

        swe are you really an engineer…..I doubt it……you have no gray matter that justifies that even w/ a diploma….the above is common knowledge but you live in a cult…….