Should legal immigrants be police officers in Colorado? Senate Republicans say no, and today passed a bill on straight party lines that would bar legal residents who are not citizens from joining state and local law enforcement departments.
However, the bill is expected to be dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled House.
Sen. Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs Republican, defended his bill this morning as it neared a final Senate vote. “It ‘is not an anti-immigrant bill,” Gardner said. “This bill is about what it means to be a peace officer, someone who has the authority to carry a concealed weapon without other license, stop you in the dark of night on a lonely road, stop and frisk you on a street, or execute a warrant at your home.”
This is not an extraordinary requirement for law enforcement, he explained, pointing out that federal law enforcement officers must be U.S. citizens. Gardner stated earlier in the week that no other nation allows non-citizens to be police officers, but today, Sen. Daniel Kagan, a Democrat from Cherry Hills Village, pointed out that the British Home Secretary just this week authorized British police departments to recruit foreign residents.
Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Denver Democrat, spoke to what she indicated is the real idea behind the bill: to demonize immigrants, an idea that she claimed is led by President Trump. “This presidency is impeding our value that we embrace immigrants,” she said.
“This bill could not come at a worse time. With this presidency, and how immigrants are being spoken about today…I feel like passing this bill would advance this ‘vision’ that immigrants are somehow less.”
Then there’s what would happen to legal immigrants who are already police officers in departments across the state. Democrats reminded their colleagues that some local governments in Colorado allow legal immigrants to join their police forces, and that passing the bill would interfere with local government authority. The bill requires police departments to revoke the certifications of their non-citizen police officers no later than July 1, 2021, effectively firing these officers if they do not take steps to become U.S. citizens.
Gardner’s measure drew opposition from the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police and the state association of chiefs of police.
The bill’s fiscal analysis also reminded lawmakers that the law could impact law enforcement officers at state colleges and universities and at a variety of state agencies, including corrections and revenue, as well as the departments of law, public safety and natural resources.
Photo credit: Banspy, via Creative Commons license, Flickr