Crossing guard held on criminal charges |

Crossing guard held on criminal charges

Veronica Whitney

AVON ” The Eagle County School District has fired a crossing guard who is suspected of being an illegal immigrant, police said.

Elsa Marquez Perez, 30, of Avon, who worked as a crossing guard at Avon Elementary school, is being held at the Garfield County jail on suspicion of forgery and criminal impersonation. Perez was arrested Jan. 25 after an Avon police officer discovered she had allegedly been using a social security number owned by a person who died in 1971.

The Eagle County School District fired Perez, a Mexican national who has worked as a crossing guard since December 2004, after she was arrested, said Tricia Theelke, director of human resources for the school district.

“We followed all of our hiring procedures, which includes completion of I-9 and a background check and unfortunately nothing came out to our attention that (Perez) was in fact not authorized to work in the United States,” Theelke said.

Theelke said Perez provided the information required for employment verification. School district employees have to complete an I-9 form used to verify their identity and their eligibility to work in the United States. The most typical documents used for verification are social security cards and driver licenses, Theelke said.

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In addition, all of the school district employees are required to go through a fingerprint check done by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Theelke added.

“We also audit our I-9 file forms on a regular basis,” Theelke said when asked if the school district would take any further measures to whether other empolyees are eligible to work.

No racial issue

Avon acting police chief Mike Leake said the case “isn’t a racial thing.”

“It was a policeman following up to make sure he was doing the right thing,” Leake said.

The police officer’s investigation of Perez began after a traffic stop during which Perez allegedly said she didn’t have a Colorado driver license because she was an illegal immigrant, police records say.

The police officer who conducted the traffic stop knew Perez as a crossing guard at the Avon Elementary school, so he went to see the school principal who gave him a copy of Perez’s employment eligibility verification form that she had completed in order to get her job.

Further investigation on the social security number showed that it didn’t belong to Perez, but allegedly to a person who died in 1971. Later, the school district also provided Perez’s permanent resident card, which is also allegedly false, the police report says.

“What you’ll find with illegal immigrants is, if we stopped them and they don’t have documentation, we will ask them if they are illegal. We don’t arrest them,” Leake said.

“In this case, the officer who made the traffic stop knew (Perez), so he went to the school,” he said. “He was trying to determine who this person was, he wasn’t trying to go after her maliciously.”

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