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Legislators seek to utilize non-citizens for military and police despite pushback

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(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already signed a law to allow certain non-citizens to become police officers in Illinois. Now, the state’s two U.S. senators want the same for the U.S. military. Many Republicans are opposed to the idea.

House Bill 3751, allowing certain non-citizens with work permits or who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients to be police officers, passed the Illinois General Assembly with bipartisan support during the spring session. The measure had the backing of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Now, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, wants the same for the U.S. military through a measure brought forward by Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Schaumburg. U.S. Senate Resolution 2401, known as the Enlist Act, was introduced on July 19. It remains in the U.S. Senate Committee of the Judiciary.

“If you are an undocumented person in this country, and you can pass the physical and the required test, background test alike, then you can serve in our military,” Durbin said. “If you do it honorably, we will make you citizens of the United States.”

Some in Illinois are against Illinois’ police measure that was passed in August and any new legislation that seeks to do anything similar.

“I am a firm believer that we should be protected by the citizens of this country and not by folks that are non-citizens,” state Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, told The Center Square. “If you look at the bill that the governor signed, that was one of my few no votes.”

Pritzker addressed the proposal this summer and said the military has done this for years.

“We have a U.S. military that has 35,000 immigrants who are not U.S. citizens who are serving in the U.S. military today,” Pritzker said. “Eight-thousand more sign up every year. We allow that in our U.S. military.”

Illinois state Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, said there needs to be guardrails put in place if Congress chooses to go forward with it.

“There are legal immigrants who are also frustrated with the length of time it takes to go through this process,” Wilcox said. “If we are going to do anything, I believe there must be a requirement and an expectation to a committed path to citizenship in a specific amount of time and just how a student visa expires depending on what you’re doing, there needs to be a hard expiration on this as well.”

Previously, state statute said “it was unlawful” for the sheriff of any county or local government to “authorize, empower, employ, or permit any person to act as a deputy sheriff or special policeman for the purpose of preserving the peace, who is not a citizen of the United States.”

After the Illinois migrant police law passed, state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said handing this amount of power to those who are here as non-citizens is a dangerous move.

“You cannot hand the power to arrest any citizen of the United States, let alone the ones we represent here in the state of Illinois, over to someone who is not a United States citizen,” Rose said.

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