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Rep. Ford opposes bill allowing non-citizens to become firemen

Representative La Shawn Ford (D-8th) is opposed to HB 4045, which will allow non-citizens to apply to become Chicago firemen if they have a work permit. Ford says the bill fails to rectify the discrimination he says still exists within the Chicago Fire Department.

Representative La Shawn Ford

“As a State Representative committed to fairness and inclusion, I must strongly oppose the proposed amendment to the Illinois Municipal Code and the Fire Protection District Act,” Ford told the Chicago Crusader.

“While the amendment intends to provide opportunities for individuals legally authorized to work in the United States, regardless of citizenship, it fails to address the pressing issue of systemic discrimination within our city’s Fire Department.

“The city of Chicago has a long and troubling history of unfair recruitment and promotion practices, particularly evident in cases such as the ongoing struggle of 117 African American firefighters who have been denied promotions and opportunities since their case began in 1998,” Ford pointed out.

“The city was found liable for discrimination in the hiring and promotion of Black firefighters as far back as 2005. This is not a matter of the distant past but a persistent and pervasive problem that requires immediate attention and meaningful action.”

Standing his ground and making his position clear, Ford said, “Passing this bill without addressing the underlying issues of discrimination and inequity within our Fire Department will only exacerbate the problem. It would ignore the ongoing struggle of marginalized communities who have been systematically excluded from fair employment practices.

“It would set the city up for more lawsuits and further erode trust in our institutions,” argued Ford.

“Instead of rushing to implement this amendment, we must focus on rectifying the current problem by implementing strategies to promote diversity and inclusivity within the Fire Department.”

Ford said this includes actively recruiting from the ranks of high schools, city colleges, trade schools and unemployed Americans “to create a pipeline of diverse candidates.”

“We must address the root causes of discrimination through comprehensive training programs, accountability measures, and a commitment to fostering a culture of equality and respect within the Department.

“I urge my colleagues to work to improve this bill and work toward meaningful solutions that address the longstanding issue of discrimination in our Fire Department and ensure equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their background.

“I emphasize the need to address ongoing discrimination and will work with the bill sponsor to take a more proactive approach to promoting diversity and inclusion within the fire department.

“The bill fails to acknowledge the historical context of discrimination in the city and ignores the need to encourage, legislate and advocate for meaningful action to address systemic issues.”

The bill amends the Illinois Municipal Code and the Fire Protection District Act. It provides that an individual who is not a citizen but is legally authorized to work in the United States under federal law is authorized to apply for the position of firefighter, subject to all requirements and limitations, other than citizenship, to which other applicants are subject. The bill became effective January 1, 2024.

The controversial HB 4045 was introduced by Rep. Barbara Hernandez (D-50th) and supported by and sponsored by Reps. Edgar Gonzalez, Jr. (D-23rd), John M. Cabello (R-90th), Travis Weaver (R-93rd) and Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar (D-22nd).

The Crusader received no reply to a request for comment from Hernandez by its print publication deadline.

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