Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering a bill that would allow immigrants enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to become police or corrections officers. The legislation has been proposed to address a law enforcement hiring crisis in the Garden State. Corrections departments in the state currently have more than 400 vacancies, and the New Jersey State Police have reported that state trooper applications have fallen significantly.
Plummeting police enrollment
Most states do not allow DACA recipients to own firearms or serve in law enforcement, but that is beginning to change. Police enrollment around the country has plummeted for several reasons, and thousands of officers with decades of experience have chosen to retire early. Bills similar to the one being mulled in New Jersey have already been passed in Colorado, California and Utah.
DACA to the rescue
Allowing noncitizens to serve as police and corrections officers could help to alleviate the nation’s law enforcement staffing problem because there are currently 580,000 people currently enrolled in the DACA program. These people entered the United States illegally as children, but the DACA program allows them to work and protects them from deportation. There are about 16,500 DACA recipients living in New Jersey who must renew their work and residency permits every two years.
The problem will persist
Lawmakers should be praised for removing some of the restrictions placed on immigrants who entered the United States as children and think of themselves as American. However, allowing DACA recipients to serve in police and corrections departments will probably not solve the law enforcement hiring crisis. These bills increase the size of the pool that candidates can be selected from, but they do not address the issues that are deterring people from a career in law enforcement or driving experienced officers into early retirement.