Arizona Cop Illegal Immigrant: Detective Resigns After Learning Origin

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 07:01 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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An Arizona cop has resigned after determining she was an illegal immigrant. Carmen Figueroa, who worked as a detective for the state's Department of Public Safety, apparently believed for decades that she was born in the country and was a U.S. citizen.

Figueroa, who had an excellent record as a Highway Patrol officer and then detective, told authorities she understood from her mother that she was born in the United States. But when a passport application for Figueroa’s brother was processed this summer, the truth came to light.

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Figueroa, 42, was born in Sinaloa, Mexico, a DPS spokesperson said, and because of her lack of citizenship, she was unable to work as a police officer. If she had not resigned, she would have been fired, DPS spokesman Bart Graves told television station KOVA.

"She told us she was always under the impression through her mother that she was born in this country, and she did not really find out until this summer ... that she was an illegal alien through, I believe, a confrontation with her mother," Graves told The Associated Press.

Graves said that Figueroa began working in the state as a secretary at the federal Bureau of Prisons. When she started at DPS, she submitted a Texas birth certificate along with other paperwork.

A criminal investigation is occurring, Graves told the AP, and steps are being made to make sure this type of situation doesn’t occur in the police forces again.

An immigration lawyer in Tucson told KVOA that it would be unlikely that Figueroa would be criminally charged in the case.

“A situation like this where someone has been in the U.S. for 30 or 40 years believing that they're a U.S. citizen is pretty rare," Maurice Goldman told KVOA.

If Figueroa has family or a spouse who is a citizen, it’s possible she could apply for a green card, Goldman told KVOA. She could also be deported, depending on her family and “whether or not the Departmetn of Homeland Security wants to go after her,” he said.

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