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Police Recruiting Crunch Finds One Supply Line: DACA Program

Some states in the U.S. have begun to pass laws that would allow noncitizens who can work in the U.S. to become police officers. California and Colorado are two of those states, while others, like New Jersey, are mulling such legislation, NBC News reports. The measures make recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program eligible for law enforcement work. This comes as some departments say they are struggling to recruit and retain officers. Beneficiaries of the DACA program have historically been barred from holding jobs in law enforcement because of state laws. The DACA program, which provides protections against deportation for people who arrived in the United States without legal status before turning 16 and who have lived in the country continuously since at least 2007, has about 580,000 active recipients in the United States.

Before changing its law last year, California required that police officers, or peace officers, be U.S. citizens or permanent residents who were eligible for and applied for citizenship. In Colorado, DACA recipients previously could not legally carry firearms. Colorado’s new measure does away with that prohibition. Supporters of similar measures have noted that noncitizens who are authorized to work in the U.S. can already serve in the military, making law enforcement work a natural extension. Critics of such legislation, however, say careers in law enforcement should be reserved for U.S. citizens and that noncitizens should not be able to carry firearms or possess the power to arrest citizens. DeLacy Davis, a retired police officer in New Jersey and a community policing expert, said he believes some of the opposition to these measures "is grounded in straight racism, no chaser. Period."


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