A veteran Arizona State Police detective has resigned her post after reports revealed she was born in Mexico and living in the United States illegally.
Ex-officer Carmen Figueroa, 42, had worked 13 years for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, including as the State Police public spokesperson, but agreed to step down
after Tucson NBC affiliate KVOA revealed she was not a U.S. citizen.
Figueroa had stated in a written affidavit when she was hired that she was a U.S. citizen. She told investigators her family had told her all her life that she was born in the U.S.
Arizona officials said they believe her, but insisted that she could not stay on in her position, according to state law.
"We believe the affidavit and information she gave us at the time," said Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves, who noted Figueroa would have been fired if she hadn't resigned because Arizona requires police officers to be citizens.
"She did not really find out until this summer . . . that she was an illegal alien through, I believe, a confrontation with her mother," Graves said.
Graves said Figueroa was a highway patrol officer in southern Arizona before she became a detective in 2010, and "had an exemplary record." He noted that when Graves was hired to the police department, she submitted a Texas birth certificate, along with a driver's license and high school diploma from California. The birth certificate had apparently been given to her by her mother.
Her citizenship became an issue after her brother, who is in the military, applied for a passport and federal authorities learned his sister was a police officer.
Graves told The Associated Press
that before Figueroa became a police officer, she had worked for the federal Bureau of Prisons as a secretary and for the Pima County, Ariz. courts as a secretary, and then an officer.
Graves added that the state Department of Public Safety is "absolutely having in-depth discussions right now to prevent this from happening again."
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