Nashville Police Dept.: Immigrants Should Be Allowed To Serve As Officers

| by Karen Eisenberg
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Nashville, Tennessee, hopes to convince the state legislature that immigrants should be legally able to become members of law enforcement agencies. A law currently in place prohibits non-citizens from becoming law enforcement officers in Tennessee.

Nashville Police Department spokesperson, Don Aaron, argues that immigrants who have been honorably discharged from military service should be allowed to apply for positions with law enforcement, according to USA Today.

"Persons who have given of themselves in the service to this country potentially have much to offer Tennesseans," Aaron said. "We feel that ... would benefit both the country and this city."

Police departments around the country are struggling to fill vacancies, especially in more rural and secluded areas. Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Justin Mullins says it is extremely beneficial to law enforcement agencies when immigrants are willing to live and work in these areas.

"People that want to live there and build a family there and work there is a little more difficult to find," Mullins said. "People moving from out of state, or out of the country, if they're willing to work in these areas, then that's great for us."

Law enforcement agencies are also seeking to make their communities more culturally integrated. Hiring immigrants who can relate to community members, and who understand diversity, is advantageous, USA Today reports.

Some worry that there are security risks involved with allowing immigrants to join police forces. Executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, Mark Krikorian, explains that he is okay with immigrants who have green cards but worries about non-documented immigrants.

"We're handing over a gun and a badge to somebody whose background we don't really know a lot about," Krikorian said.

Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, disagrees.

"The security risk is a straw man," he said. "This is about people who have gone through criminal background checks, who are meeting the very high standards that we set as a country to stay here and who only want to serve and protect their communities."

Different departments have different rules. Chicago and Hawaii police departments allow any immigrant with a work authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to become an officer. The Cincinnati Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department require that officers have at least a pending citizenship application on file with the federal government, according to USA Today.

Source: USA Today

Photo: Wikimedia, George Walker IV/The (Nashville) Tennessean