‘Fundamentally Bad Idea:’ Illinois Governor Pritzker Allows Non-U.S. Citizens to Become Police Officers with New Law

Democrat Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law that allows non-U.S. citizens to become police officers in the state, which angered critics who slammed the idea of foreigners arresting U.S. citizens as “a fundamentally bad idea.”

Illinois House Bill 3751 will no longer require police officers in the state to be citizens of the United States. The bill, signed by Pritzker on Friday, will go into effect on January 1, 2024, despite heavy opposition from prominent police groups and GOP lawmakers. 

The legislation “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,” reads HB3751, adding that non-U.S. citizens must be able to purchase, carry, obtain, or otherwise possess a firearm under federal law to apply for a position.

The bill states that immigrants who stay in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act are also entitled to apply for a job to join law enforcement.

Federal law currently forbids non-U.S. citizens from serving as deputies and police officers. 

New law faces criticism from legislators, law enforcement

Over the weekend, GOP Illinois Representative Mary Miller voiced her outrage over the new legislation on X, formerly known as Twitter, writing that “no sane state would allow foreign nationals to arrest their citizens.”

“At 5 p.m. 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 tweeted. “No sane state would allow foreign nationals to arrest their citizens; this is madness!”

Following news of the bill’s passage, Republican Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado posted on X, “In the state of Illinois, illegals can now become police officers. Yes, you heard that right.”

“People who are breaking the law by their presence here can now arrest American citizens. You know the other blue states are watching and getting ready to implement this idea as soon as they can!” continued Boebert. “We either address this border crisis or allow our country to descend further into a Leftist dystopia.”

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) also condemned the legislation after it passed in the Democratic-controlled House in July.

“What message does this legislation send when it allows people who do not have legal status to become the enforcers of our laws?” said the group in a statement. “This is a potential crisis of confidence in law enforcement at a time when our officers need all the public confidence they can get.”

Illinois State Senator Chapin Rose slammed the bill as “a fundamentally bad idea” in May.

“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,” reported the Daily Wire.

Democrat Representative Barbara Hernandez, who sponsored the bill, defended the measure, calling it a “natural progression” of the 2021 federal decision to allow some undocumented immigrants to work as military members and healthcare workers, according to a CBS News report. 

Pritzker defended the bill in a Monday press conference and argued that the legislation would be limited to individuals legally allowed to work in the U.S. and who are legally entitled to possess firearms. Gov. Pritzker said they were misinterpreting the language of the bill.

“I am tired of the right-wing twisting things,” said Pritzker. “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.”

The legislation comes as Illinois grapples with police shortages statewide amid retention and recruitment challenges. In March 2022, Chicago Police Department staffing levels reached the lowest in recent history, causing the department to loosen its recruitment requirements by offering online testing opportunities and waiving the minimum 60 college credits for certain candidates. 

The legislation is one of several controversial measures Gov. Pritzker signed into law over the weekend. A separate bill championed by the governor empowers the state attorney general to crack down on pregnancy centers that divert women seeking an abortion to alternate care their programs offer using “deceptive tactics.”

Critics of that law note ambiguity surrounding the specifics of what will define misinformation or deception under the law and have expressed concern that the government could use the vagueness to target pregnancy centers unfairly that are pro-life. Lawsuits have already been filed to challenge the law, including one filed by the nonprofit law firm Thomas More Society, which is suing the state of Illinois.