Protesters ask Maricopa Co. Attorney to lessen charges for illegal immigrant workers

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Families of illegal immigrants protesting Sheriff Joe Arpaio is nothing new, but Natally Cruz is not used to being a part of it.

Her uncle was arrested with 22 others at a raid at Sportex Apparel in Tempe on Feb. 8. He was illegal, and using a fake ID.

"He had been working here for 16 years and he has been in the United States for 21 years," she said.

Cruz and others with family members in similar situations are pleading for leniency, and marched from the courthouse to the County Attorney saying their loved one's hard work isn't a crime.

"All of them work with their name and made up Social Security [number], which it has nobody that it belongs to," said Cruz.  "They're not effecting any single person. All they were doing was working and bringing money to their families every night."

"If we get the information we'll charge whoever we need to in order to hold them accountable for criminal activity," said County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

Montgomery said he's not in the business of granting special treatment.

"For me to distinguish a particular category for defendants, different policies that people are asking me to be lenient on, we could be here all day trying to figure out the consequences of so many other felony prosecutions," Montgomery said.

But these family members want the felony charges dropped.

"To see them, having always had a clean record, and just for them being working and being punished and having so many felonies," said Cruz. "It's hard."

The next court date for those arrested in the raid is next month.