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Denver voters may decide if DACA recipients can be officers


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Council President Jamie Torres and Pro Tem Amanda Sandoval are proposing a change to the city’s charter to remove the citizen requirement.

DENVER, Colorado — Despite having work authorization, DACA recipients cannot currently serve as police officers and firefighters in Denver. The city’s charter has a U.S. citizenship requirement on the application, blocking DACA recipients from applying. 

The requirement prompted an investigation eight years ago into the Denver Sheriff’s Office and found it discriminated “based on citizenship status by requiring applicants for deputy sheriff positions to be U.S. citizens.” 

City Council is now proposing a ballot measure to allow dreamers to be eligible for the positions. Because the language for requirements is outlined in the city’s charter, it must be changed by voter-approved initiatives. If passed, likely later this month, it will put the issue on November’s ballot.

“We have definitely heard that story that folks feel like they come up against a brick wall right as they open the application where it asks, ‘Are you a US citizen?’ If not, they have to go look elsewhere,” Council President Jamie Torres said. 

Torres is co-sponsoring the bill with Pro Tem President Amanda Sandoval. They say the charter language is antiquated, especially when DACA recipients can serve in the U.S. military. 

“We have the support of the local firefighters and their union, and we also have the support of the Denver Police Department. I believe once people learn about the initiative and why – the why is really important – of why we are doing this right now, I do believe that voters will pass it in November,” Sandoval said. 

The bill does not allow newly arriving immigrants to apply for these positions. The charter would still require work authorization, so undocumented individuals would still be unable to apply. DACA recipients and permanent residents will be able to do so, if they have work status. 

“We have lawful permanent residents and DACA recipients who have spent decades living in Denver and in our surrounding communities. This is absolutely a service job that they want to do,” Torres said. “As we are starting to see recruitment numbers dwindle for both of our police and fire departments, it doesn’t make any sense for us to leave people out of the conversation who actively want those jobs.” 

The first municipality to do something like this was Aurora. Boulder has also followed suit, meaning those who want to pursue a career in law enforcement may look to other areas and agencies that have already dropped the requirement. 

Alongside the Denver Police and Fire Departments, the Civil Service Commission has also shared its support. The commission is responsible for hiring both fire and police. 

The bill already has support from several community groups:  Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Denver Immigrant Refugee Commission and Denver Latino Commission. 

The ballot measure comes a year after Colorado passed a bill that allows DACA recipients to possess guns while serving in local law enforcement. Due to federal rules, they cannot possess or own firearms. That state law opened up more options but still limited those who wanted to work in municipalities with citizenship requirements. 

The bill goes on to its second hearing next week. 

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Denver voters may decide if DACA recipients can be officers

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