MINNEAPOLIS – Changes are in the works for Metro Transit Police Department’s immigration enforcement policy.
The potential policy changes comes after a Metro Transit police officer asked a light rail passenger whether he was here legally, sparking national uproar.
In a viral Facebook video from May 14, Officer Andy Lamers can be seen questioning a passenger on the Blue Line light rail train. Lamers originally approached the passenger, 23-year-old Ariel Vences-Lopez, to ask if he had paid his fare. He had not paid, and also gave an inaccurate name and date of birth. After declining to provide a state ID, Lamers asked about his citizenship.
“Are you here illegally?” Lamers asked. Vences-Lopez, whose back is to the camera, can be heard saying “no.”
The passenger filming the video then asks the officer if he is “authorized” to ask about immigration status. Lamers shrugged and said, “not necessarily.”
The video, which currently has over 1.4 million views on Facebook, drew local and national criticism. Metro Transit denounced the incident, stressing their officers “will not act as immigration officers.”
“On May 23rd, Metro Transit first became aware that an officer questioned a rider about his immigration status. Immediately, our focus turned to ensuring that our officers fully understand and adhere to our policy regarding immigration status. The policy has been updated to explicitly state that Metro Transit officers will ‘ensure equal enforcement of the law and equal service to all persons regardless of their immigration status,’” Metro Transit said in a statement on Facebook.
Now Metro Transit is considering updating their immigration enforcement policy to prohibit officers from asking light rail and bus passengers about their immigration status unless it is relevant to a broader crime or investigation, according to the Star Tribune. While the changes have reportedly been in the works since January, the recent incident involving Lamers has fast-tracked the policy updates.
According to the Star Tribune, Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington advised members of the police force against getting involved in immigration battles.
“You are not immigration agents, that is not what you’re expected to do,” Harrington said, according to the Star Tribune.
The policy is being reviewed, and is expected to go into effect by the end of July.