(The Center Square) – Lawmakers have advanced a measure that will soon be sent to the governor’s desk that would allow certain immigrants to become police officers in Illinois.
Current federal law prohibits a non-U.S. citizen from becoming a police offer throughout the country. House Bill 3751 looks to change that law in Illinois.
The measure states that any immigrant who the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has deferred under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process is allowed to apply for the position of a police officer, deputy sheriff or special police officer.
The measure was amended by the Senate on Thursday and received pushback from Republican lawmakers.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, criticized the idea of a non-citizen being able to arrest a U.S. citizen in Illinois.
“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 non-citizen is a fundamental breach of democracy,” Rose said. “It is antithetical to the police power of any state.”
Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, supports the bill and said during debate that history shows people from different backgrounds have been law enforcement officers for a long time.
“This is about Americans today. This isn’t about Irish born versus Mexican born, for instance, this is a much more fundamental question,” Harmon said. “I would ask you to look into your hearts and look into our history.”
State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, said proposals like HB3751 further show that the Illinois legislature does not have its priorities straight.
“I find this disturbing. I find it distasteful,” Anderson said. “The fact that we are passing a law that is predicated on federal law changing just shows where our priorities are.”
State Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, said that the term “undocumented” has received an unfair stereotype by some and that many who are undocumented are here for other reasons.
“Under the umbrella of non-citizens is a variety of visa holders, like student visas, tourist visas, a variety of visas,” Villanueva said.
“What the dog whistlers are not mentioning is undocumented are people. So when you make mention of non-citizens, it means a lot of different people at a lot of different times and a lot of different situations,” Villanueva said.
The Fraternal Order of Police has been in support of the legislation being enacted, which Harmon said is nothing new.
“I’m going to call you back to one of my favorites movies, the ‘Untouchables,’ and the dramatic entrance of the Sean Connery character as a grizzled Chicago police officer who spoke with a pronounced Irish brogue,” Harmon said.
“There was a time when half the Chicago Police Department spoke with an Irish brogue, and they did not learn them in Chicago,” Harmon said.
The Senate amended the bill so it must return to the House before it can be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for approval.