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Maricopa top lawyer: I'm not targeting immigrants

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PHOENIX -

Is there a double standard when it comes to prosecuting people using fake identification in Maricopa County?

A group says County Attorney Bill Montgomery comes down hard when illegal immigrants are caught, but gives others a free pass.

This week Tempe police announced they seized 1,761 fake ID's from underage drinkers in the past year, but only 224 of them were given misdemeanors. The others were only given citations.

Immigrants' rights group point out the when illegal immigrants are busted in workplace raids, they are charged with felonies, Tempe police seized almost 2,000 fake ID's along Mill Avenue last year from underage people trying to get into bars and clubs.

Friday, immigrants' rights advocates wanted to know why those people weren't charged with ID theft like most illegal immigrants are.

"When underage students underage drinkers are using fake IDs to get drunk, the police department gives them a slap on the wrist, they tell them to never do it again and they send them on their way. When in fact someone who is trying to provide for their family is told that they have to remain in jail, given a class 4 felony," says Lydia Guzman.

"Why are they not being charged, because we give the kids presumption of the innocence, it's just a stupid thing? Do we know for sure, no but as a group as a class, we're just oh they're just kids being kids," says attorney David Cutrer.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery held a news conference of his own to address that allegation. He says the two issues are not the same.

"Fake ID's and buying alcohol - look, folks - it's not an identity theft offense," says Montgomery.

Montgomery says the way the state law is written, using a fake or altered ID is not considered the same violation as identity theft for the purpose of getting a job.

"And there is absolutely no basis for an argument that we're treating the ASU student on Mill Avenue who's 19 years old using a fake ID different than someone engaged in employment-related fraud, when Arizona law specifically prohibits treating the two the same."

Montgomery said the real difference here is that in many cases illegal immigrants are knowingly stealing someone's identity -- not just creating fake ones or altering a birth date.

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