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Law enforcement looks to immigrants

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Many of the country’s law enforcement agencies are seeking to bolster their ranks or connect with communities that are increasingly diverse. To fill these gaps, USA Today reports, more and more agencies are turning to immigrants.
Citizenship is a requirement for employment with most of the country’s law enforcement agencies, but the need for personnel and diversity has driven many departments toward greater flexibility in who they hire. Now, agencies are increasingly allowing individuals who are legally in the U.S. or have a green card to become officers.
Agencies in Illinois, Hawaii and Vermont already recruit and hire non-citizen officers. This, coupled with the fact that thousands of non-citizens serve in branches of the U.S. military, has spurred other agencies around the country to lobby for changes in laws that prohibit individuals without citizenship from serving as law enforcement officers.
Police departments in Hawaii and Illinois allow any immigrant authorized to work in the country to apply. This means that even those who are in the application process for a permanent residence are permitted on the force. In other departments, from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, stricter hiring practices are the norm. These agencies require a green card or, in some cases, a pending application for citizenship.
Not only do immigrants help to fill needs in communities that are more diverse, they are often willing to serve in remote patrol areas where officers are difficult to recruit. Although such hiring practices have been raised concerns about security, experts shut down such criticism by noting that between immigration screening and law enforcement background checks, any recruits have been thoroughly vetted.
Recruiting and hiring immigrants to fill gaps in law enforcement is consistent with our country’s long-standing practices. For myriad reasons, from railroads to agriculture to tech, U.S. employers have long had to look beyond the country’s borders to fill industry needs. As the U.S. becomes increasingly diverse and fewer citizens are stepping up to fulfill the gaps in law enforcement, immigrants represent a qualified hiring pool from which to draw those willing to protect and serve our communities.

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