Op-Ed: Illinois joins California in offering law enforcement jobs to noncitizens

By Joe Guzzardi

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker caught up with California Gov. Gavin Newsom to see which of the Democratic leaders that oversee sanctuary states can do the most to accommodate their immigrant community at citizens’ expense.

Prior to Jan. 1, 2023, candidates for California police officers’ jobs were required to be either citizens or permanent residents to qualify. But a law Newsom signed, Senate Bill 960, opened law enforcement positions up to any California resident who possesses either a green card or a valid visa. The new law took effect January 1, 2023.

In July 2023, Pritzker signed HB3751, a bill similar to California’s, that will allow individuals who are legally authorized to work in the United States to apply for the position of police officer, deputy sheriff or special policeman, subject to satisfying that job’s specified requirements. Illinois’ applicant pool would, like California’s, include deferred action for childhood arrival recipients (DACAs), lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and temporary protected status (TPS) holders.

Illinois has more than 35,000 DACAs and about 30,000 LPRs. By-state statistics on TPS are unavailable, but because that program has expanded dramatically since President Biden’s inauguration, it represents a significant total. Currently, 15 nations have been granted TPS, and if history is a guide, their status will never be revoked. Instead, the TPS designees’ list will grow longer. Pritzker’s folly will begin January 1, 2024.

Founded in 1915, the Illinois-based Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers, strongly objected to HB3751. The group noted that police officers’ main function is to enforce the law and to ensure that people in their jurisdictions abide by all applicable laws. The union promised that it will “welcome these potential police recruits with open arms once their citizenship status is solidified, and look forward to the unique perspective they can bring to our profession.”

But the FOP asked what message does the legislation send when noncitizens become enforcers of our laws? “This is a potential crisis of confidence in law enforcement at a time when our officers need all of the public confidence they can get.” Making an important point that the FOP overlooked, Republican Illinois State Sen. Chapin Rose added: “It would be a ‘fundamental breach’ of democracy to allow noncitizens to arrest American citizens.”

Pritzker, in a half-truth-filled defense of his controversial legislation, said that about 20 years ago, post-9/11, Chicago and Illinois went on a hiring spree to safeguard against terrorist attacks. Those officers are now eligible for retirement and are leaving the force. Although Chicago’s crime rates are trending down this summer, they remain dangerously high. During a recent weekend, six people were shot and killed, and 27 others were wounded by gunfire, including innocent pedestrians.

Chicago’s police are increasingly frustrated by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s illogical limitations on their ability to carry out their duties. For example, officers can’t give chase to fleeing criminals because they’re suspected of having committed minor offenses. Under new Mayor Brandon Johnson, the road ahead for cops may be even rockier. Johnson promised during his campaign to eliminate Chicago’s gang database, a vital tool, and to redirect police funding to social services agencies. Johnson avoided using the phrase “defund the police,” but the end result will be the same. He also recently called events tantamount to riots just “large gatherings .”

If Newsom, Pritzker and Chicago’s administrators governed with more commonsense and less WOKENESS, Illinois and California wouldn’t have driven so many citizens out of those well-paid police jobs that include generous benefits packages. Often noncitizens’ backgrounds are murky; perhaps their ties to their homeland governments will outweigh their fealty to the U.S. If so, the bill put forth by Newsom and Pritzker will create long-term security risks.

Joe Guzzardi is a Project for Immigration Reform analyst. Contact him at jguzzardi@ifspp.org.

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