ID theft sting yields arrests of illegal immigrants
The Business Journal
All of the 17 individuals recently arrested in an identity theft sting in Phoenix are illegal immigrants from Mexico.
The immigration status of those accused and indicted persons is not paramount to state Attorney General Terry Goddard, which is earning the Democrat criticism from Republicans -- including challenger Bill Montgomery -- who favor tougher border and immigration policies.
State, local and federal officials have made 17 arrests in recent weeks in an ID theft crackdown aimed at taking a bite of criminal enterprises. ID theft rings in the state are often tied to illegal immigration and the illicit drug trade.
Goddard's office announced the indictments of seven identity thieves on Sept. 28. All of the accused have Hispanic names but the Goddard release says nothing of their nationality or immigration status.
When asked the immigration status of the accused, Goddard spokeswoman Andrea Esquer said she did not know their legal status in the U.S. and it did not matter because they would prosecuted regardless of whether they were in the country legally.
Esquer also said that any immigration matters related to those in ID theft ring would be handled by the federal government if necessary and was not under the purview of the state.
Goddard's attitude toward the legal status of the ID theft ring comes despite the fact that Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano has touted the investigation as part of her efforts against illegal immigration. Napolitano is getting heat from Republicans for getting to the border and immigration crisis in the state three years into her term as governor and for opposing conservative measures aimed at denying state benefits to illegals.
The governor's office referred questions regarding the nationality and immigration status of the accused ID thieves to the state Department of Liquor License and Control. That state agency is one of the lead groups investigating fake IDs and ID theft in the state.
DLLC spokesman Wes Kuhl confirmed to The Business Journal that all those arrested were illegal immigrants from Mexico.
ID theft and illegal immigration are top security and economic problems in Arizona. The state is the top entry point for illegals entering the U.S. from Mexico and Arizona has the worst per capita ID theft rate in the nation.
The joint effort that led to the arrests includes federal border agencies as well state and federal law enforcement.
Montgomery, a Republican East Valley attorney challenging Goddard in next year's election, criticizes the AG's handling of the ID theft matter.
"This investigation underscores the fact that illegal immigration is impacting our state's ranking as No. 1 in identity theft," said Montgomery. "The fact that the current AG's office cannot or will not recognize the impact of illegal immigration underscores a failure of leadership in this issue of statewide importance. One further note is the fact that it was the Governor's Office that sponsored the Task Force and not the AG's office. Why isn't the AG's office providing the leadership role in coordinating these efforts"
Montgomery has listed immigration as his top issue against Goddard, faulting the Democrat for opposing a voter approved referendum denying state welfare benefits to illegals.
Montgomery also criticizes Goddard for what the Republican views as a narrow interpretation of what state programs fit under that voter-approved law.
Goddard has defended his interpretation of that law.
[sympathizer][apologist]they are just poor people looking for a better life [/sympathizer][/apologist]