Police Department Forced to Hire Illegal Immigrants!

Yeah, that's not what really happened. Not too long ago, a radio host named Dana Loesch, who I've followed on Twitter for quite a while, posted a tweet about an article as such:

It highlights an article with the line, "Department of Justice fines Denver Sheriff Department for excluding non-citizens when hiring." Loesch responded to it: "For crying out loud." The reaction from Loesch's ~450,000 followers was largely what you'd expect. Here is a small sampling:

Loesch didn't respond to any of these people to point out they were completely misunderstanding the situation. You see, the article Loesch highlighted had nothing to do with illegal immigrants like so many of her followers believed. It explains:

The Denver Sheriff Department will accept a penalty from the Department of Justice after a federal probe found it wrongly made U.S. citizenship a job requirement during a recent hiring spree.
...
The Justice Department made the announcement on Monday, saying the sheriff's department violated the Immigration and Nationality Act without having an exemption.

What happened is simple. Many people live and work in the United States without being a citizen. Some are people in the process of immigrating to the country, living here with a green card and working like anyone else. Others are here on a somewhat more temporary basis via things like work visas (though people on such visas often try to become full-fledged citizens as well).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring these people. That said, people might feel it unwise or unsafe to hire a non-citizen for certain types of jobs. This is seen a lot in jobs involving government functions such as law enforcement. Because of that, the Immigration and Nationality Act allows employers' to be exempt from its regulations about treating non-citizens equitably with citizens under some circumstances. That is why the article specifically says:

the sheriff's department violated the Immigration and Nationality Act without having an exemption

The phrase "without having an exemption" is key. Most law enforcement agencies in the United States do not currently hire non-citizens to be officers/agents. Some people think none should. It's been a topic of debate in a number of areas (e.g. here). I'm not going to weigh in on which side is "right." I honestly don't know.

What I do know is this is a choice people of different areas are making for themselves. I mistakenly thought police departments had to apply for an exemption, but after discussing it with people on Twitter, I discovered that's not the case. It turns out police departments can exclude non-citizens from the hiring process only if a law tells them to. That is, if the people of a state, county or city decide they don't want to allow non-citizens to be law enforcement officers in their area, that's the way it will be.

I think that is a good thing. Regardless of what side of the debate one might be on, I think it is good to allow people to choose to hire non-citizens for jobs people in other areas might not not want to hire them for. The only other option would be to make a federal law saying no law enforcement agency in the United States can hire non-citizens as officers. I think that would be a needless overstep of federal authority.

Anyway, that debate is largely academic. The law is what the law is. The police have to follow the law just like anybody else. If the laws of an area say police can't hire non-citizens, then the police can't hire non-citizens. If the laws of an area don't forbid police from hiring non-citizens (or give them the authority to make the decision themselves), then they can't discriminate against non-citizens.

That's the law. Police in the Denver Sheriff Department broke it. Because they broke the law, they got a $10,000 fine and have to make some changes so they act in accordance to the law in the future. This shouldn't be a big deal. Because of that, I responded to Loesch on Twitter:

With Twitter having only 140 characters, I couldn't include a caveat about how there are exemptions, but I thought the tweet was still fine. Unfortunately, the first time I tweeted this I made a small spelling error. I reposted the tweet with the error corrected then deleted the original tweet. This caused a bit of confusion as Loesch tried to quote the deleted tweet, writing:

And then:

Again, the only way Loesch's idea could be implemented is if the federal government stepped in and mandated no police department in the entire nation could hire non-citizens as officers. States would be stripped of their ability to make a decision on this issue. Cities and counties in states which hadn't implemented this policy would be stripped of their ability as well. Loesch's idea requires removing people's ability to have any say on this matter.

At this point I should mention Loesch is a conservative who generally opposes federal overreach. That makes her position on this interesting. More interesting, however, are her follow-up tweets. When I pointed out her followers largely took her tweet as saying the Department of Justice was forcing police to hire illegal immigrants, she said:

Her complaint was "no one reads," yet prior to me speaking up, she never made any effort to clarify her tweet and the article she referenced had nothing to do with illegal immigrants. The idea of non-citizens who are legally able to work in the United States didn't come up in her timeline until I mentioned it.

A person can reasonably be cynical about this. It wouldn't be hard to conclude Loesch thought the article was about illegal immigrants when she first saw it. It's plausible she only realized what the article was about after I (and a couple others) pointed it out to her. Then, to walk things back, she wrote:

Maybe that's not the case. I don't know. I can't read people's minds. What I can do is read what people write. There was nothing in Loesch's original tweet to even remotely suggest the position she now holds. Nobody would ever have come up with that interpretation. That's why in the dozens of responses her tweet got, not a single person thought that was her position. If Loesch thinks people misunderstood that tweet because they didn't read something, she's delusional.

In any event, we can now read Loesch is unhappy with the idea of a sheriff's department being fined for breaking the law. That seems weird to me. While it is certainly reasonable to disagree with a law, I don't understand how anyone can be unhappy with law enforcement agencies being forced to follow the laws that exist. I posed this issue to Loesch, and these were the last responses I got:

People aren't required to respond to me so I'm not going to complain she chose to stop doing so. I do wish she had as I might have discovered the error in my understanding sooner. As you can see in one tweet she was responding to, I thought individual departments could file for an exemption to enable them to exclude non-citizens. That was wrong. It is up to the governing bodies for the area (city, state, etc.).

More importantly, I wish Loesch would have explained why she thinks the Denver Sheriff Department should be allowed to simply disregard laws. I wish Loesch would have explained why she thinks it is wrong for the Department of Justice to enforce the laws that are on the books. I especially wish Loesch would explain why she thinks the federal government should step in and strip away the authority of states and lower levels of government to make the decision on this issue.

More than all that, I wish she (or anyone else) would explain why I'm writing this post. I honestly don't know. This was certainly stupid and crazy enough to fit the theme of this site. I just don't understand how this could have come up. How could anyone get huffy about the Department of Justice enforcing the law? Are people saying it should have just let a sheriff's department ignore laws?

I don't know. I don't get any of this. As such, I'm going to end this with a final question. If Dana Loesch thinks people of individual states and cities shouldn't be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to allow non-citizens to be hired as law enforcement officers, does she want us to fire the existing police officers who aren't citizens?

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