Governor Signs Controversial Bill Allowing Non-U.S. Citizens to Become Police Officers

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, has enacted a law that permits non-U.S. citizens to apply for police officer positions. The law, which has been met with significant opposition, was signed on Friday after being passed by the Illinois State House and Senate. Critics argue that it is inappropriate and potentially dangerous to allow foreign nationals to have the authority to arrest American citizens.

The law, known as Illinois House Bill 3751, stipulates that individuals who are not U.S. citizens but are legally authorized to work in the United States under federal law can apply for police officer positions. This includes immigrants with legal work authorization and those who remain in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act. The applicants will be subject to all requirements and limitations, except for citizenship, that other applicants face.

This move by Illinois contradicts federal law, which states that only U.S. citizens can serve as police officers and deputies, as reported by CBS News Chicago last month. The new law has sparked a heated debate, with opponents voicing their concerns about the potential implications.

Republican Representative Mary Miller of Illinois expressed her disapproval of the law on Twitter, stating that it was “madness” to allow non-citizens the power to arrest citizens. She criticized the timing of the bill’s signing, suggesting it was done when public attention was minimal.

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police also voiced their opposition earlier this month. They questioned the message sent by the legislation, arguing that it could lead to a crisis of confidence in law enforcement at a time when public trust is crucial.

In May, Illinois state Senator Chapin Rose, a Republican, described the law as a “fundamental breach of democracy.” He argued that giving non-citizens the power to arrest and detain citizens was contrary to the principles of democracy and the police power of any state. He further described the law as a “fundamentally bad idea.”

The law will come into effect in Illinois on January 1, 2024. This move follows a similar one in California, where Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 960 into law in September 2022. This law repealed existing citizenship requirements for peace officers, including police, corrections, and highway patrol officers.

On the same day, Governor Pritzker signed 130 other bills into law, including House Bill 2297. This bill mandates state agencies to include “non-binary” or “gender non-confirming” categories in their employment reports.