Civil service commission decides documented, non-citizen immigrants can be Aurora cops, firefighters, too

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AURORA | U.S. Attorney General William Barr isn’t the only person discussing a citizenship requirement this week. 

Aurora’s Civil Service Commission on Tuesday decided non-citizen immigrants who are legally allowed to be in the country can now apply to be local police officers and firefighters.

The city’s five civil service commissioners unanimously voted to amend Aurora’s standing rule stipulating that only U.S. citizens can apply to work with the Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Rescue. 

The commissioners had been mulling the question of whether to allow legal immigrants to apply to Aurora civil service jobs since January, when City Councilwoman Allison Hiltz asked candidates for an open seat on the local commission whether they would vote for such an amendment. 

Before the vote on July 9, an outside consultant briefed commissioners on current labor laws, according to city documents. Several council members and the city’s top law enforcement personnel had previously lobbied commissioners to tweak the requirement.

Hiltz had previously argued the citizenship requirement put the city in violation of federal law and unfairly discriminated against immigrants. 

The Department of Justice has penalized other Front Range law enforcement agencies for maintaining citizenship requirements in recent years, including the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in 2013, and the Denver Sheriff’s Department three years later.

There are only four other agencies in the state that preclude non-U.S. citizens from applying to civil service jobs: the police departments in Denver, Loveland, and Pueblo, and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, according to city documents.

The largest pool of immigrant applicants will likely be I-9 visa holders, Aurora Police Division Chief Harry Glidden told a city council policy committee earlier this year. 

Recruits will still have to pass a federal Criminal Justice Information Services background check, Glidden said.

Officials have said the widened applicant pool could make Aurora a national magnet for qualified, foreign workers as most large police police departments around the country don’t allow immigrants to apply. When Aurora police asked 25 major city police departments across the country about their citizenship requirements earlier this year, only three of them said they can hire immigrants with I-9 visas.

The new rule took effect immediately following the vote. 

Sherri-Jo Stowell, spokeswoman for Aurora Fire Rescue, said the new stipulation could have a quick impact for that department’s recruiting efforts; Aurora Fire opens a new application cycle on Monday.