SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WTVO) — A bill that would allow certain immigrants to become police officers in the state of Illinois has been sent to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk to be signed into law.
The measure would circumvent a federal law that prohibits non-U.S. citizens from becoming a police officer.
Illinois’ move would allow any immigrant with legal authorization to work, or who remains in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act, to apply for the position.
Police departments have had a hard time recruiting officers since the civil unrest that followed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in 2020.
During the debates on the Senate floor in May, Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said, “To hand the power to arrest and detain a citizen of this state, or a citizen of any state in the United States, to a noncitizen is a fundamental breach of democracy. It is antithetical to the police power of any state.”
However, Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said people from different backgrounds have been in law enforcement for a long time.
“This is about Americans today,” he said. “This isn’t about Irish born versus Mexican born, for instance, this is a much more fundamental question. I would ask you to look into your hearts and look into our history,” ignoring the fact that Irish-born police officers were naturalized U.S. citizens at the time.
We have proponents from the Chief of Police from Blue Island, Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, the Illinois Municipal League and we have removed opposition and have neutral-ed the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Chiefs of Police,” said supporter, Sen. Mary Edly-Allen (D-Libertyville).
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police initially opposed the measure, but changed that stance after language was updated to address major concerns. “No legislation is perfect, and we believe there’s still room for improvement in future sessions,” a spokesperson said.
If signed, the law will go into effect on January 1st, 2024.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect a change of position by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.