Muscatine Woman Won't Be Deported For Breaking State Law

Jun 9, 2017

A Muscatine mother of four who was born in Mexico will not be deported for breaking a state law. Prosecuting Martha Martinez for identity theft would have jeopardized her legal residency through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Martinez came to Iowa from Mexico when she was 11 years old.  As a young adult she used a false identity to gain employment.

After the DACA program was created, Martinez applied for a driver’s license under her own name. Facial recognition software alerted Iowa Department of Transportation officials that Martinez had a driver’s licenses from 2008 under a different identity.

Though the statute of limitations had expired for identity fraud for her old ID, the Muscatine County attorney attempted to prosecute Martinez using this fake identity to gain employment in 2013. If found guilty, she could have lost DACA status and faced deportation.

With the help of the Iowa ACLU, Martinez successfully appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

In a four-three ruling, the court says a prosecution for identity fraud in certain circumstances would be legal. But because Muscatine County wants to charge Martinez for forgery and identity theft for working under a fake identity, the prosecution can't go forward. That's because the employment of immigrants is solely the purview of the U.S. government.

"Local enforcement of laws regulating employment of unauthorized aliens would result in a patchwork of inconsistent enforcement that would undermine the harmonious whole of national immigration law," writes Justice Brent Appel for the majority.

Appel also notes that Martinez was caught because she became a part of the DACA program, which required her to provide information to immigration authorities. He says the federal authorities "might blanch at prosecuting a person who in good faith responded to their invitation to come out of the shadows for deferred action."

The federal statute of limitations has not expired for identity theft. That means U.S. District Attorney Kevin E. VanderSchel has until 2018 to file charges against Martinez.