An illegal immigrant had been serving as a law enforcement officer in southern Arizona for 13 years before resigning this week.
KVOA reported the news after Department of Public Safety Officer Carmen Figueroa’s brother, who is serving in the military, applied for a passport. His federal background investigation revealed that his sister had been working with the DPS for about 13 years, possibly with a fake or forged birth certificate.
DPS spokesperson Bart Graves told the news team, “We believe the affidavit and information she gave us at the time. And, she was under the impression that she herself was an American citizen.”
It seems that Figueroa’s parents brought her from Sinaloa, Mexico, when she was a young child, but told her she was born in the United States.
CBS 5 reported yesterday that Figueroa, 42, resigned Monday. She would have been fired had she not stepped down.
Graves said Figueroa “had an exemplary record,” ABC News reported. She was promoted to detective and DPS spokesperson during her tenure.
“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.
Now, the question is what will happen to Figueroa.
“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, an immigration lawyer in Tucson, told KVOA.
Goldman says that cases like Figueroa’s were much more common when she came to the U.S. came to the U.S.
“If you’re looking back 20 or 30 years ago, the state and federal laws were more relaxed when it came to issuing a driver's license or social security number,” Goldman said.
Figueroa probably won’t face criminal charges, but she may face deportation, especially if she doesn’t have any family members who are U.S. citizens.
“A lot depends on whether or not the Department of Homeland Security wants to go after her,” Goldman said.