Bill would require U.S. citizenship for state prison guards

Feb 12, 2014, 6:56 PM | Updated: 6:56 pm
...

PHOENIX — A state lawmaker wants to require Arizona Department of Corrections officers to be U.S. citizens, as is already the case with other peace officers, saying the change would help ease unemployment in his district.

“It’s about certain citizenship advantages that you have,” said Rep. Darin Mitchell, R-Litchfield Park, whose district stretches to Yuma. “You were a citizen, you were born there, shouldn’t you at least have a first dib at that job? That’s all we’re saying.”

The Yuma area had an unemployment rate of 27.1 percent in December, highest in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The House Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee endorsed HB 2133 on a party-line vote Wednesday despite concerns raised by Will Barnow, legislative liaison for the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Barnow told the panel that his agency has approximately 400 officers who are permanent legal residents of the U.S. and could face a limited applicant pool if it becomes law. He also said that over the next year the Department of Corrections expects to hire an additional 1,000 workers.

“One of the things we know is that if we don’t have officers to fill positions, we have to do other things like mandate overtime, leave positions vacant, which obviously creates a public safety risk and reduces morale among the officers,” he said.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who voted for the bill, said there are certain positions that should be held by U.S. citizens because of the sensitivity of their duties.

“I think that we obviously believe that there are certain positions where citizenship is a requirement, and I think there is a valid discussion that needs to happen to decide whether these types of peace officer positions should require that kind of a standard,” he said.

But Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, one of three Democrats voting against the bill, said it would prevent veterans who aren’t U.S. citizens from being able to obtain jobs in a career field that values their experience.

“I’m going to fight this all the way to the end because it’s really disgusting that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war that still can’t become citizens because there’s time requirements are going to be precluded from a good, decent paying job, especially at a time when the Department of Corrections are saying they are short of people who are qualified to take this job,” he said.

Gallego suggested defining a period of time before a permanent legal resident can become a peace officer in order to ensure a solid background check.

Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix, said he doesn’t see a point to the bill.

“This doesn’t create jobs, it won’t reduce the unemployment rate,” he said. “You would just switch one employee at the expense of another.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross)...
KTAR.com

Monsoon storms brings rain to parts of Valley, more expected this week

Thunder and rain storms appeared across the Valley Wednesday evening, also bringing rain to metro Phoenix. 
19 hours ago
(El Mirage Police Department Video Screenshot)...
SuElen Rivera

El Mirage police release video of elementary school lockdown

The El Mirage Police Department on Tuesday released body-worn camera footage of an elementary school lockdown where three people were arrested last week. 
19 hours ago
FILE - A dead fish that used to be underwater sits on cracked earth above the water level on Lake M...
Associated Press

How new Colorado River cuts will impact Arizona, residents

Arizona and Nevada residents won't face bans on watering their lawns or washing their cars despite more Colorado River water shortages.
19 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/@DougDucey)...
Danny Shapiro

Sen. Mark Kelly says he understands Arizona Gov. Ducey’s initiative to close border wall gaps

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona says he gets why Gov. Doug Ducey is filling in gaps at the U.S.-Mexico border.
19 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation)...
KTAR.com

By the numbers: How Phoenix Children’s continues to provide lifesaving work

Here's how Phoenix Children's operation continues to flourish and save lives as our Give-A-Thon rolls on.
19 hours ago
Lloyd Beard (Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Photo)...
KTAR.com

Arizona mom saves 12-year-old girl from sex offender who allegedly broke into home

A 12-year-old girl's mother and brother came to the rescue after a registered sex offender broke into their northern Arizona home, authorities said.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Bill would require U.S. citizenship for state prison guards