Police Departments Hiring Immigrants as Officers
LAW ENFORCEMENT agencies struggling to fill their ranks or connect with their increasingly diverse populations are turning to immigrants to fill the gap. (ILLUSTRATION: Border officers in California. California has been in the forefront of hiring non-White officers.)
Most agencies in the country require officers or deputies to be U.S. citizens, but some are allowing immigrants who are legally in the country to wear the badge. From Hawaii to Vermont, agencies are allowing green-card holders and legal immigrants with work permits to join their ranks.
At a time when 25,000 non-U.S. citizens are serving in the U.S. military, some feel it’s time for more police and sheriff departments to do the same. That’s why the Nashville Police Department is joining other departments to push the state legislature to change a law that bars non-citizens from becoming law enforcement officers.
Department spokesman Don Aaron said they want immigrants who have been honorably discharged from the military to be eligible for service.
“Persons who have given of themselves in the service to this country potentially have much to offer Tennesseans,” he said. “We feel that … would benefit both the country and this city.”
…With more immigrants moving to places far from the southern border or away from traditional immigrant magnets like New York City or Miami, agency leaders say it’s important to have a more diverse police force to communicate with those immigrants and understand their culture. Bruce Bovat, deputy chief of operations in Burlington, said their immigrant officers help the agency be more “reflective of the community we serve.”
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said he has no problems with green-card holders becoming police officers because they’ve made a long-term commitment to the country and have undergone extensive background checks. But he worries about the security risks associated with allowing any immigrant with a work permit to become an officer, especially considering that the Obama administration has given hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants work permits.
“We’re handing over a gun and a badge to somebody whose background we don’t really know a lot about,” Krikorian said.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said any immigrant authorized to work in the U.S. has already undergone a thorough background check and will undergo even more screening in the police application process.
“The security risk is a straw man,” he said. “This is about people who have gone through criminal background checks, who are meeting the very high standards that we set as a country to stay here and who only want to serve and protect their communities.”
Meanwhile, the consequences of hiring non-Americans as “law enforcers” recently came into sharp focus in Los Angeles. — Ed
* * *
Source: USA Today