(NewsNation) — Non-citizens who are legally authorized to work in the United States will be able to apply to be a police officer in Illinois under a new law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week.
HB3751 goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024. The legislation’s sponsor, state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, a Democrat, said two categories of people can get hired: recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and permanent residents who are on their way to gaining citizenship, according to WRSP.
Residents, Hernandez said to the news outlet, have requested their police force be more diverse, and at the same time, some immigrants have shown interest in joining law enforcement by studying criminal justice and other related fields.
“They’ve grown with their community, and they know the people,” Hernandez said. “(It opens) doors for them.”
Candidates who are not citizens will still be subject to the same requirements that other police applicants are.
Still, the bill received criticism, including from Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert , who slammed the bill on Twitter.
“Yes, you heard that right. People who are breaking the law by their presence here can now arrest American citizens,” she said. “You know the other blue states are watching and getting ready to implement this idea as soon as they can!”
Illinois’ Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement to KHQA that the law sends the wrong message.
“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 FOP said.
Among those bashing the law were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination.
“To the Left, citizenship is meaningless,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “No illegal alien should have authority over any American citizen. It is a sad commentary on the state of America that this is even a debate.”
However, the governor said critics of the law are misrepresenting its language.
“I am tired of the right wing twisting things,” Pritzker said at a news conference reported on by NBC Chicago. “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.”
To DeSantis in particular, Pritzker had even harsher words, saying “this man isn’t smart enough to be president.”
“I proudly signed the bill allowing legal permanent residents & DACA recipients in IL to serve their communities as police officers,” Pritzker said, quote-tweeting DeSantis. “Our military already does it & it’s the right thing to do—no matter what lies the right-wing spreads.”
The law comes at a time when police departments across the country, including in Illinois, are struggling to recruit and retain officers.
Yolanda Talley, chief of the Chicago Police Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, previously told NewsNation that they’ve lost 1,000 officers in the last year, mainly to retirement. Veterans officers said they’d rather leave a job where they don’t feel valued and appreciated.
To combat this, CPD has recruited at military bases, such as Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Camp Pendleton in California, and set its sights on Black colleges and universities to include more diversity.