New Illinois Law That Allows Certain Non-Citizens to Join Law Enforcement Becomes a Flash Point

A new Illinois law has become a flashpoint in the culture wars with figures like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis condemning it, and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker defending it.

The law will soon allow non-citizens who are both legally eligible to work in the U.S. and authorized to possess firearms under federal law to become police officers and deputy sheriffs.

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The law extends this opportunity to legal permanent residents and DACA recipients.

State Rep. Barbara Hernandez (D-Aurora), who sponsored the bill, said amid the recent contention there’s been “a lot of misinformation.”

“The DACA portion at the moment is symbolic simply because they can’t carry a gun at the moment,” Hernandez said.

The move comes as around 1,700 jobs sit vacant in the Chicago Police Department. The measure was passed with majority Republican support.

“There’s a lot of people that are retiring and not joining the force,” Hernandez said. “There’s a big pool of individuals that want to. … Allowing them to apply, and hopefully they qualify as they go through the testing, that would be a great opportunity for both them and the police departments to fill in those gaps.”

The bill passed 101–0 in the state House with all Republicans voting in favor, and it passed 100-7 in the state Senate. Still, there’s been a wave of contention on both the national and state level.

“The way it (the bill) is written, all DACA recipients, putting aside the firearms issue, could become deputy sheriffs,” said George Fishman, a senior legal fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. “The problem is that not all DACA recipients are work-authorized. They have to apply for work authorization to DHS, and they can only receive it if they demonstrate an economic necessity, so it’s certainly possible that the statute could result in non-work authorized aliens becoming deputy sheriffs, and that involves both civil and criminal violations of federal immigration law.”

In response, Hernandez told “Chicago Tonight” that isn’t the case.

“The bill is very specific to only legal permanent residents and DACA recipients upon federal approval if the federal government does allow them to purchase or own a gun,” Hernandez responded.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, who represents Illinois’ 15th District, wrote on social media that the bill will “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!”

Meanwhile, her husband, state Rep. Chris Miller (R-Robinson), was in support of the bill.

“Are U.S. citizens bigoted for wanting to be policed only by other U.S. citizens? I certainly don’t think so,” Fishman said. “The concern that Mrs. Miller and others have expressed are the exact same concerns that the U.S. Supreme Court expressed in 1978 when it came to the conclusion that states have the constitutional right to limit eligibility to be police officers to U.S. citizens. The Supreme Court didn’t say states had to do that. They said it was within their rights to do that.”

“Chicago Tonight” invited members of the Illinois Republican Caucus to join the show, but no one was available.

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