Imagine this nightmare scenario. An American citizen walking on American streets is arrested, detained, and questioned by a police officer who serves a hostile foreign government such as China, Russia, or Iran. The foreign cop might be a spy charged with keeping track of U.S.-based persons of interest on behalf of his government. This spy, who doubles as an American cop, has the power to act under American law, investigate U.S. residents, and even use lethal force, should he see fit.
This might read like a dystopian novel about the collapse of American society. But this scenario is now legal under Illinois law, as it is in a handful of other states. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker created the possibility for foreign spies to join the Illinois police force with his signature on House Bill 3751, a bill ostensibly intended to mitigate Illinois’ police recruiting crisis.
Previous Illinois law required Illinois police officers to be American citizens. H.B. 3751 allows foreign citizens who hold an American green card to become police, along with individuals who came into America illegally as children and have since received federal protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
As America’s proxy conflict with Russia grinds through its second year in Ukraine, China simultaneously inches toward initiating a conflict with the U.S. in the western Pacific, and Iran saber rattles in the Persian Gulf, Illinois policymakers decided to open law enforcement to Russian, Chinese, and Iranian citizens.
Exploiting this opportunity could quickly become a new initiative for countries like China. The Department of Justice recently accused Chinese intelligence assets of running an illegal overseas police station in New York this year and arrested two Chinese agents for the alleged crime. The agents acted illegally in a police capacity to harass Chinese dissidents in New York. If Chinese citizens become cops in Illinois, then the same would happen to Chinese dissidents in Illinois.
An Invitation to Hostile Powers
The new Illinois law’s invitation to hostile powers is comparable to letting Soviet citizens serve in police departments during the Cold War.
A law enforcement recruiting crisis is cited as justification for the new law. That recruiting crisis is at least partially the result of a leftist policy response to several years of undeterred lawlessness along with poor working conditions — all to the detriment of common-sense policing. CBS News reports that 3,300 officers have left the Chicago Police Department since 2019, while only 1,600 new recruits have joined. Chicago crime has skyrocketed since 2019.
The 2-to-1 retirement-to-recruitment ratio and elevated crime do not signal law enforcement’s confidence in Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who often refuses to prosecute violent crime. Nor do they show an endorsement of Chicago and Cook County’s leadership generally, which sat impotent through waves of crime and looting in 2020 and 2021, sent violent criminals (including 90 charged murderers) back to the streets awaiting trial, and have further enacted policies that defang the Chicago Police Department.
Nor do they indicate confidence in Pritzker, who took Chicago’s pro-criminal policies statewide through the SAFE-T Act, a law that largely ended cash bail, further blunted police departments, and rushed violent criminals back onto the streets. Pritzker enacted these reforms as a step toward “dismantling the systemic racism that plagues our communities.”
Illinois’ move precipitated a debate, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticizing the law for allowing illegal aliens to become police officers. Pritzker responded that DeSantis “isn’t smart enough to be president.” He proclaimed that the law allows permanent legal residents and DACA recipients — illegal aliens who have work permits and protection from deportation — to become cops. Pritzker did not address the fact that his law essentially legalizes and institutionalizes the illegal police forces that China has been running in New York and other jurisdictions across the U.S.
Incoherence in the Law
The new law both allows and disallows DACA recipients from becoming police. DACA is a status conferred upon between 600,000 and 800,000 migrants who entered the country illegally as children. The Illinois law specifically authorizes DACA recipients to apply for law enforcement positions but requires that they are authorized to own a gun under federal law.
Federal law prohibits DACA recipients from owning a firearm. Courts have consistently ruled that DACA recipients are ineligible to own guns under federal law, and some DACA recipients have even been convicted under federal law for owning firearms. Thus, Illinois’ new law opened police work to DACA recipients with one clause and then denied it to them with the next clause.
The larger expansion of law enforcement eligibility goes to green card holders who are eligible to own a gun under federal law. This qualifies most green card holders. This newly eligible group undoubtedly includes foreign spies, and Illinois’ law makes no attempt to mitigate this problem. China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law requires all Chinese citizens to spy on behalf of China (read: the genocidal Communist Party of China).
The Department of Homeland Security estimates there were 12.88 million legal permanent residents in the U.S. as of 2022, with more than 500,000 of them counted as Illinoisans. Notably, more than 800,000 green card holders are citizens of the People’s Republic of China, a country whose leader openly and frequently gives speeches implying he might launch a war against Taiwan and the U.S. in the Pacific. Analysts who look beyond Chinese President Xi Jinping’s words find that he is, in fact, preparing for war.
Illinois law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold the United States and Illinois Constitutions. Such an oath, if meaningfully taken, would likely be interpreted by Chinese authorities as an act of treason against China, where the prospective officer more than likely has family who can be leveraged.
So under what conditions would the Chinese Communist Party feel sanguine about a Chinese citizen becoming a cop in Illinois? None that Illinoisans should be OK with.
Chinese Espionage on the Rise
A few clarifying events occurred in the week that Pritzker was trumpeting his new law.
First, China’s Ministry of State Security announced a new program to require all Chinese citizens to work in counterintelligence on behalf of their government. That announcement came on the very day Pritzker tweeted criticisms at DeSantis.
Then, two American naval servicemen of Chinese descent were arrested and charged with passing U.S. military secrets to PRC officials. To top it off, a Chinese company was declared to be running an illegal lab in California equipped with 1,000 mice that were genetically engineered to carry diseases such as Covid, malaria, and E. coli. Specimens of HIV, hepatitis, and herpes were also found at the lab.
FBI Director Chris Wray has testified that learning of the scale of Chinese spying in America “blew him away,” and that his agency opens a new counterintelligence operation on China every 12 hours, with 2,000 such cases currently open.
Chinese state-owned enterprises are responsible for manufacturing the lion’s share of fentanyl that floods American streets, leading to 100,000 deaths per year. China’s intellectual property theft from the U.S. is legendary. It has amounted to trillions of dollars of theft at a clip of $300 billion to $600 billion per year. A majority of Chinese citizens in the U.S. on student visas or green cards are here for benevolent purposes, but a minority conduct IP theft and other operations to undermine American national security.
Apologists for the law claim Illinois is not alone in allowing foreign spies to become cops. California and Colorado recently enacted similar policies, and a handful of other states have such laws on the books. None of these states seem to have thought through the consequences of allowing PRC citizens loyal to the Chinese Communist Party to police Americans and Chinese dissidents in America.
The Illinois General Assembly should rescind this senseless law for the good of the state and nation. The Illinois law at a minimum should be amended to prohibit citizens from countries of concern, commonly defined by the federal and state governments to include China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, from attaining law enforcement jobs. Tennessee allows some foreign citizens to serve in law enforcement if they have served in the U.S. military and received an honorable discharge — another useful filter to consider.
Pritzker crows for rankings that proclaim Illinois as America’s most left-wing state. Let’s hope Pritzker’s example does not spread and that his virtue-signaling does not become synonymous with dereliction of national security.
Michael Lucci is the founder and president of the State Armor Project.
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