Los Angeles Ends Citizenship Requirements for County Government Employment

Los Angeles County has just approved a measure allowing non-citizens to work for the local government.

Authored by Chair Hilda l. Solis, the measure passed by unanimous vote.

The move ends the citizenship requirements for LA County government employment when it doesn’t conflict with state or federal law.

Solis said in a statement: “The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a motion authored by Chair Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District, and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to waive citizenship requirements for Los Angeles County government employment.

“Los Angeles County is a community of immigrants from each corner of the world.

“And while our County-government workforce reflects the community it represents, there is room for improvement.

“This motion seeks to make clear that the County, as one of the largest employers in the region, strives to be an inclusive and diverse workforce, and is committed to not excluding nor allowing citizenship to be a barrier to employment.”

“As of 2018, an estimated 880,000 non-citizens had made the County their home, contributing significantly to improving the lives of us all.

“Yet there are barriers to County employment for them,” Chair Hilda Solis said.

“For example, during its annual recruitment cycles to fill vacant entry-level deputy public defender positions, the Public Defender receives applications from otherwise qualified non-U.S. citizens who, although permitted to practice law in California, are disqualified from the examination process due to the Public Defender’s legacy citizenship requirement.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the move will help the county “attract high-quality job candidates” for government roles.

“The County wants to provide culturally competent services and attract high-quality job candidates, but both goals are made more difficult by an out-of-date requirement that only U.S. citizens are eligible for certain classes of County jobs,” Kuehl said.

“We are asking County Counsel to explore eliminating this requirement because it prevents our workforce from reflecting the diversity of the County population and its diverse needs.”

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Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo García described citizenship requirements for government work as a “barrier.”

“Barriers to employment based on cultural, racial, ethnic, or religious characteristics are contrary to our core values,” García said.

“Citizenship overlaps these demographic characteristics.

“This motion, by Supervisors Solis and Kuehl, will promote equity in hiring and give the Public Defender’s Office access to the most qualified applicants for employment, irrespective of their citizenship status.

“An immigrant’s experience will advance our vision, mission, and values to protect our clients’ legal and human rights and enable us to more readily realize my goal that our employees fully represent the demographics of the population that we serve.”

The statement added:

“The motion directs County Counsel, in consultation with the Department of Human Resources and the Chief Executive Office, to report back within 14 days with an analysis of the Board’s authority to waive any citizenship requirement for Board-appointed County officers or Department Heads, unless a citizenship requirement is imposed by state law, and to direct County Officers to waive any citizenship requirement for employees they have or will appoint, unless state law explicitly imposes a citizenship requirement;

“As well as the effects of a Government Code section 24001 waiver for Board-appointed County office(s) and their employees/appointed deputies, and the method(s) to accomplish such a waiver.

“In addition, the motions directs the Chief Executive Office’s Legislative Affairs, in consultation with County Counsel and the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs’ Office of Immigrant Affairs, to seek legislative changes to amend the California Government Code to either eliminate or grant local entities the authority to eliminate, the citizenship requirement for Disaster Service Workers.”

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By David Hawkins

David Hawkins is a writer who specializes in political commentary and world affairs. He's been writing professionally since 2014.

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