New Illinois Law Allowing Non-Citizens To Join Police Force Is Denounced as ‘Madness’
The new law would allow DACA ‘dreamers,’ who came to America illegally, to join the force, which currently has more than 1,500 vacancies, according to one report.
Governor Pritzker of Illinois and state lawmakers are coming under fire for a bill the governor recently signed that would enable non-citizens, including immigrants who came to America illegally, to become police officers.
The bill is an effort to fill gaping vacancies in the force, which has been decimated by low morale, mass resignations, and retirements following race-related unrest in 2020 and the subsequent “defund the police” movement. House Bill 3761, which passed by a 37-to-20 margin in the Illinois state senate and 100-7 in the house, would allow those “legally authorized under federal law to work in the United States” and, most controversially, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to become police officers.
The signing of the bill comes as Illinois, and its metropolis Chicago, reports a crippling shortage of police officers: Between 2020 and 2022, more than 1,500 Chicago police officers either resigned or retired, according to data obtained by CBS News, and the Center Square reported in March that there were still more than 1,500 vacancies in the Chicago Police Department, which has also seen five police superintendents in the past five years.
The bill takes care to specify that, aside from citizens and legal permanent residents, it also applies to recipients of DACA, prompting some Republican critics to accuse the state of allowing illegal immigrants to join law enforcement.
Illinois hosts more than 5 percent of the nation’s 580,000 DACA recipients — beneficiaries of the Obama-era immigration policy that allows immigrants who came to America illegally as children to stay in the country for a period of time. Republicans, including President Trump, have tried unsuccessfully to end the policy.
At nearly 30,000, Illinois’s DACA population, percentage-wise, is even higher than that of New York State, where 4 percent of DACA recipients reside, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only Texas and California house more DACA recipients.
A sponsor of the bill, Barbara Hernandez, a state representative, tells the Sun the bill is in part intended to address the cop shortage.
“Across Illinois, there’s a shortage of police officers,” she says, explaining that she sponsored the bill “not only to help those that can qualify to be police officers, but also to help those departments that are currently going through shortage and need a lot of people.”
She says she believes the bill is already working, noting two people have already reached out to her about joining the force, but she also emphasizes that the bill does not include immigrants who are not permanent residents or DACA recipients and those who are not authorized to work in the United States.
One outspoken critic, Congresswoman Mary Miller, who represents Illinois’s 15th District, wrote on Twitter that the law is “madness” because “no sane state would allow foreign nationals to arrest their citizens.”
Governor DeSantis, who is running second in the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, said the bill is evidence that citizenship is “meaningless” to Democrats.
“No illegal alien should have authority over any American citizen,” he said in a tweet. “It is a sad commentary on the state of America that this is even a debate.”
Ms. Hernandez, who replied to Mr. DeSantis on Twitter by saying he “didn’t read my bill correctly,” tells the Sun the bill is “a very simple change” that passed through the Illinois state house nearly unanimously — only seven Republicans voted no.
Mr. Pritzker also defended the bill, labeling accusations that the state is “just allowing anybody to become a police officer” as “inaccurate.”
At a press conference, he told reporters 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.”
Mr. Pritzker also mentioned that non-citizens can already serve in the Army. Those with a green card are eligible to serve in the Armed Forces, provided they are fluent in English, and, according to Military.com, more than 8,000 non-citizens enlist each year. Non-citizens in the Army often have the benefit of expedited naturalization with waived fees, and America has naturalized more than 158,000 non-citizens through the military since 2002.
DACA recipients are still barred from military service. A bill introduced by Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona in March would enable DACA recipients to join the military, but the bill never went up for a vote.
Ms. Hernandez says her bill will not affect the naturalization process for non-citizens because any changes to the citizenship policies would have to come through the federal government, but that she “would love to explore” a policy like that in the future.
The bill will go into effect on January 1.