Illinois moves to allow non-US citizens to serve as police officers

Federal law prohibits non-US citizens from serving as police officers and deputies.

On Friday, Illinois Democratic Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation allowing non-US citizens to become police officers in the state. House Bill 3751 removes US citizenship as a requirement to become a police officer in Illinois and will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Pritzker came under fire for the move, and in response claimed that "We have the ability for people who are legally here in this country, and permanent residents and DACA residents, to apply for jobs as police officers." He assured Illinoisers that the bill would only be for those who are legally allowed to work in the US and legally allowed to possess firearms.

DACA residents, or those who fall under President Obama's "Dream Act" are persons that were brought to the US illegally by their parents when they were minors, meaning that it was not their intention or their choice to be illegal immigrants, but the purview of their parents, who were illegal immigrants. 

According to the legislation, “…an individual who is not a citizen but is legally authorized to work in the United States under federal law is authorized to apply for the position of police officer, subject to all requirements and limitations, other than citizenship, to which other applicants are subject." 

Additionally, non-US citizens must be allowed to obtain, carry, purchase, and otherwise possess a firearm under federal law to apply for the job. The legislation also extends to immigrants in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act. 

However, federal law prohibits non-US citizens from serving as police officers and deputies.

Illinois Republican Rep. Mary Miller, wrote on Twitter, "...when no one was paying attention, Pritzker signed a bill to allow illegal immigrants to become police officers, giving non-citizens the power to arrest citizens in our state. No sane state would allow foreign nationals to arrest their citizens, this is madness!"

In May, Illinois Republican state Senator Chapin Rose called the legislation "a fundamentally bad idea."

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) said in a statement, "What message does this legislation send when it allows people who do not have legal status to become the enforcers of our laws? This is a potential crisis of confidence in law enforcement at a time when our officers need all the public confidence they can get."

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Barbara Hernandez, called the legislation a "natural progression" of a federal decision in 2021 that allowed illegal immigrants to work in the healthcare industry and the military.

Pritzker said during a Monday press conference, "I am tired of the right-wing twisting things. They put it on Facebook, they tell lies. There are people out there that think we’re just allowing anybody to become a police officer. That’s just not accurate."

According to Fox News, Illinois like many other states and municipalities is reeling from police shortages due to problems with recruitment and retention. The outlet reported that in March 2022 the Chicago Police Department staffing numbers hit the lowest in recent history and in response, the department lowered its recruiting requirements.
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