The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously with no discussion to allow the county to no longer require U.S. citizenship for government jobs.
The policy includes exceptions for positions where U.S. citizenship is required by state and federal law. The motion was authored by Chair Hilda L. Solis, and co-authored by Sheila Kuehl. The vote took place last week.
Those wishing to work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, as well as any peace officers hired by the county, will still be subject to citizenship requirements.
According to the adopted motion, the new policy "ensures that applicants for employment are fairly and equitably considered, without regard to national origin, citizenship or other non-merit factors that are not substantially related to successful performance of the duties of the position," the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
Last year, the Board of Supervisors had asked the Office of the County Counsel and the Department of Human Resources for an analysis of whether scrapping citizenship requirements for board-appointed county officers or department heads was legal.
The report said the citizenship requirement for workers could be waived as long as state or federal law did not explicitly impose a requirement.
"Los Angeles County is a community of immigrants from each corner of the world," Solis wrote in a statement when the motion was introduced. "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."
Solis said that, as of 2018, an estimated 880,000 non-citizens made Los Angeles County their home. She also cited the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office, which had received applications from non-citizens who are otherwise allowed to practice law in California but are disqualified from the application process because of the citizenship requirement.
"Barriers to employment based on cultural, racial, ethnic, or religious characteristics are contrary to our core values. Citizenship overlaps these demographic characteristics," Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo García said. "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," García continued.
The new policy said ending the citizenship requirement will also help bring in workers who can speak multiple languages, thus "connecting with vulnerable communities and establishing new connections to critical services."