The state Senate initially passed a bill on Monday that would require law enforcement officers in Colorado to be U.S. citizens. The debate touched off a broader discussion on immigration.
Current law allows legal permanent residents with green cards to be police officers or sheriffs. The state doesn’t track how many non-citizen officers are in Colorado. Republicans such as Larry Crowder of Alamosa back the bill.
“And I think if you’re talking about arrest powers, I think you’d better be an American citizen before you make that arrest,” Crowder said.
Colorado chiefs of police and county sheriffs oppose the measure, saying they’ve had no problems with divided loyalty. Democratic Senator Daniel Kagan, who was a legal resident when he first arrived from England, said the measure will be perceived as anti-immigrant.
“ This bill does not come before you in a vacuum,” Kagan said. “Do not say to legal immigrants, ‘We don’t trust you.’ That is the wrong message to send at a time when we are fractured and in danger of falling apart.”
The bill would give current law enforcement officers at least five years to become citizens in order to keep their jobs.