SALEM — House Bill 2594, which will allow citizens of three South Pacific islands to become law enforcement officers in Oregon, was passed unanimously Monday by the House of Representatives, and the bipartisan bill is expected to see similar support in the Senate, according to co-sponsor Andy Olson, R-Albany.
The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis.
According to Olson, the bill is a continuation of the effort to include citizens from Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshal Islands with the benefits of U.S. citizenship as reparation for 67 atomic bomb tests among those island countries during World War II.
“During the 2013 session, we passed HB 2517 that allows citizens of the Compact of Free Association islands to obtain their driver’s license, and during the short session we passed HB 4071, which provides health care coverage for them,” Olson said.
Olson, a retired Oregon State Police trooper, said he sponsored the bill after learning of a young man from the islands who wanted to become an Oregon police officer but couldn’t due to the current requirement that applicants be U.S. citizens.
HB 2594 opens eligibility to include “a citizen of the United States or a nonimmigrant legally admitted to the United States under a Compact of Free Association.”
All applicants must be in good health and of “good moral character," over the age of 21 and pass a physical examination.
“HB 2594 opens the door for someone in that environment to enter law enforcement,” Olson said. “We have this unique treaty relationship that residents of the islands can become dual citizens, without losing the citizenship of their home country.”
COFA island residents are already allowed to enlist in the U.S. military, he noted.
“Law enforcement is struggling to find qualified candidates,” Olson said. “This bill makes sense for all parties involved.”
Olson said the bill has received strong support from COFA, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.