Should Police Departments Hire Immigrants As Cops? Opinions Differ


Many large police departments require officers to be citizens, but as police face increasing criticism for failing to diversify their ranks, many departments are looking to hire more immigrants, says Al Jazeera America. Michael Jenkin of the University of Scranton says, “It is in a police department's interest to hire immigrants as police officers in communities where they have a large immigrant population. We know, based on the tenets of community policing, that it's important for police departments to represent the ethnic and racial makeup of their communities.” California allows municipalities to hire police officers who are noncitizens with green cards. “No one's precluded from applying,” says Assistant Oakland Chief Paul Figueroa. “In fact, we encourage people with immigrant status to apply … because it does give us that breadth of experience that we're looking for.”

Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum, which advocates for immigrants' rights, points out that there are almost 25,000 noncitizens serving in the U.S. military. None of them, he says, are eligible to serve as police officers in most states because of their immigration status. Among police departments that require new officers to be citizens are New York, Houston, Miami and Seattle. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for immigration reduction, says there's a real danger to hiring citizens of other countries as police officers in the U.S. He says, “You are creating a precedent and sending a kind of message that full belonging to the American community is not something that's required if you're going to be a representative — a legal, armed, badge-wearing representative — of that community.”

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