Non-U.S. citizens can now become police officers in Illinois, according to legislation Democratic governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law Friday.
Illinois House Bill 3751, which removes U.S. citizenship as a qualification for law enforcement officers, comes as the Democrat-led state struggles with police shortages and rising crime in its largest cities, Fox News reported. The bill, which follows the example of other blue states like California and Colorado, "provides that an individual who is not a citizen but is legally authorized to work in the United States under federal law is authorized to apply for the position of police officer, subject to all requirements and limitations, other than citizenship, to which other applicants are subject," the legislation reads. It also requires non-citizen applicants be eligible by federal law to "obtain, carry, or purchase or otherwise possess a firearm."
The legislation has drawn much criticism from Republican lawmakers. On Saturday, Republican Rep. Mary Miller (Ill.) said passing such legislation was "madness."
"At 5pm yesterday, when no one was paying attention, Pritzker signed a bill to allow illegal immigrants to become police officers, giving non-citizens the power to arrest citizens in our state," Miller said. "No sane state would allow foreign nationals to arrest their citizens, this is madness!"
Chapin Rose, a Republican member of the Illinois Senate, blasted the bill in May as "a fundamentally bad idea."
"I don’t care where this individual is from. Australia—they should not be able to arrest a United States citizen on United States soil."
Pritzker defended the law on Monday, NBC Chicago reported, emphasizing that the measure is limited to those legally allowed to work and possess a gun in the United States.
"I am tired of the right-wing twisting things," Pritzker said. "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."
Recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are also eligible to become police officers under the new law. DACA shields children of illegal immigrants from deportation if they entered the United States before age 16 and have remained in the country continuously since at least 2007. There are currently about 580,000 active recipients in the United States, according to NBC News.
Pritzker's law will take effect January 1, 2024.