The Denver Sheriff Department, the largest in the state of Colorado, has been chastised by the U.S. Department of Justice because it made American citizenship a requirement for deputies during a hiring push in 2015 and 2016. As a result, the sheriff’s department will be required to pay a $10,000 fine and also sort through old applications for employment in order to identify persons who were tossed out of consideration because of their citizenship. Moreover, Denver must also reconsider those applicants when advertising for jobs in the future.
In a statement, the Denver Sheriff Department declared that it is committed to treating “all people with dignity and respect, and is proud to have one of the most diverse workplaces in Colorado.” The statement continued, saying, “While we didn’t commit this violation intentionally, we accept responsibility and are taking steps to clarify policy and amend language in hiring documents.”
The Department of Justice determined, under the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Act, that the sheriff’s department should have considered job applications from any work-authorized immigrant. Instead, the department made citizenship a job requirement in its employment postings.
The settlement with the justice department also requires the sheriff’s department to provide re-education training to its human resources staff on anti-discrimination provisions of federal immigration laws and also review procedures to ensure that they are consonant with federal law, read a DOJ press release.
In 2015, the department began hiring 200 deputies as part of its ongoing reform effort at inclusiveness. A larger staff was needed to minimize officers’ fatigue and reduce the millions spent on overtime pay. It was expected that sergeants on the force would thus have more time to supervise deputies, rather than serving in the department’s two jails.
According to the DOJ statement, the Denver Sheriff Department was in violation the Immigration and Naturalization Act because it required U.S. citizenship on the part of applicants. “The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from limiting jobs to U.S. citizens,” read the statement, “except where the employer is required to do so by law, regulation, executive order or government contract. The Denver Sheriff Department was not subject to one of the INA’s exceptions.”
“We commend the Denver Sheriff Department for its cooperation and commitment to removing unnecessary and unlawful employment barriers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Eliminating this unlawful citizenship requirement will help ensure that the Denver Sheriff Department hires the best and most qualified individuals to protect and serve. The entire community will benefit from these reforms.” Gupta has been on the forefront of similar lawsuits in the past. She was once an attorney for the ACLU and the NAACP.
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