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Posted on: June 18, 2014

County Attorney Comments on Puente Arizona Lawsuit

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery issued the following statement in response to the announcement of a complaint filed by the ACLU on behalf of Puente Arizona against Maricopa County, the Maricopa County Sheriff, the Maricopa County Attorney, and the Director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety:

Maricopa County has approximately two-thirds of the State’s population. It is unsurprising we prosecute more cases for any given category of offense and, in some instances, more cases in given areas than multiple counties combined.

In terms of the enforcement of Arizona’s identify theft and aggravated identity theft statutes, there is no element in these statutes that criminalizes working to provide for a family. Such a characterization is political, rhetorical and inaccurate and seeks to take advantage of a period of time when our nation is striving to address a whole range of issues dealing with immigration and illegal immigration under increasingly dire circumstances.

The amendment of Arizona’s identity theft statutes in 2007 and 2008, while adding and focusing on the use of someone else’s identifying information for means of employment, did not necessarily create a new crime for the employment-related fraud context. In fact, if these provisions were removed from the law, Arizona would still be able to file ID theft charges in many instances where a defendant has used someone else’s identifying information for employment purposes.

It is a gross distortion to suggest that these prosecutions primarily result from investigations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. The reality is that the majority of the employment-related identity theft cases submitted to the County Attorney’s Office originates from agencies other than MCSO.

With respect to the quote in the Puente press release from Sara Cervantes Arreola, I personally have made it clear to immigrant rights activists, immigration attorneys and criminal defense attorneys who handle matters on behalf of clients in this particular area that if people have information related to the abuse of fellow human beings by threatening them with immigration consequences to keep them quiet about substandard employment conditions or conditions in which slave labor is occurring, I want that information so that I can hold these employers criminally responsible.

To reiterate what I have stated repeatedly in the past: the enforcement of Arizona’s identity theft statutes is without regard to someone’s immigration status. It is based on underlying conduct. The rationale of that conduct is immaterial in determining whether or not someone has in fact violated a criminal statute. The degree to which the federal government utilizes a state-level conviction for immigration purposes is up to the federal government. The Maricopa County Attorney has no authority and no influence when it comes to how our failed immigration system operates, let alone how immigration proceedings are initiated, pursued or resolved. If that were otherwise, our immigration system would have been fixed by now.

In their effort to create another class of “victims” by conflating issues of our flawed immigration system with consequences to actual victims of identity theft, the plaintiffs have done a great disservice to both.

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