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Mexico-born detective working in Arizona illegally resigns

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A detective in Arizona resigned this week after it emerged that she was a Mexican citizen and was working in the state illegally, authorities said on Thursday.

Carmen Figueroa, a detective with the Arizona Department of Public Safety since 2003, was placed on paid administrative leave in September after the department learned that she was not a U.S. citizen, agency spokesman Bart Graves said.

Her citizenship came into question after her brother, who is serving in the U.S. Air Force, applied for a passport, Graves said. Subsequent investigations found the siblings were born in Mexico's northwestern Sinaloa state and were not U.S. citizens.

It was not clear if Figueroa was legally authorized to be in the country. However, Graves said she was ineligible to work as a police officer in Arizona as state law requires that peace officers be U.S. citizens.

"All we can go on is what she told us, that she was always raised to believe she was born in this country, her mother told her that (and) told her brother that," Graves said in a telephone interview.

Arizona, which borders Mexico, passed a tough law in 2010 to crack down on undocumented immigrants. The measure, upheld in part by the U.S. Supreme Court, requires law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of those they stop and suspect are in the country illegally.

Figueroa's case came to light on August 22, when the U.S. State Department notified DPS that she was under investigation for "citizenship issues," Graves said. She was placed on paid administrative leave on September 4 pending results of an internal review.

Graves said Figueroa was believed to have known about the State Department investigation as early as June. The internal review found that she should have advised her supervisor about the citizenship probe, but had failed to do so.

Figueroa resigned from the force on Monday, Graves noted, saying he did not believe that any cases she worked on had been compromised.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Richard Chang)

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