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Posted Friday, July 16, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY - Utah officials said Friday they have identified at least two
state workers who apparently accessed confidential documents to create a list of
1,300 purported illegal immigrants that was mailed to law enforcement officials
and the news media.
|Utah identifies 2 allegedly
behind immigrant list
|By Brock Vergakis,
|Associated Press Writer
Gov. Gary Herbert said the employees work for the Department of Workforce
Services, which administers food stamp programs and other public benefits. The
employees have been placed on administrative leave.
"It's a very small group. The people we've identified certainly have some strong
political opinions and seem to be frustrated with some of the issues around
immigration," said Kristen Cox, executive director for the department. "I think
it's an immense hypocrisy to talk about taking people to task for being illegal
and doing so by breaking the law."
Newspapers started receiving the list of names and personal information this
week, and its publicity created widespread fear in the Hispanic community. The
anonymous mailing said it also was sent to immigration officials. It demanded
that those on the list be deported, although some named have said they are in
the country legally.
"This tactic by these rogue employees to go out and to single out individuals
and their families, in some case falsely accusing people of an illegal status,
is in fact deplorable," Herbert said.
Cox said there may be one or two more people implicated in the leak of the
names, but she's confident that the core group that is responsible has been
Intentionally releasing a private record in Utah is a misdemeanor punishable by
up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If someone stole such a record, it
could be prosecuted as a felony with a penalty punishable by up to five years in
prison and a $5,000 fine.
"We will begin an immediate, aggressive, formal investigation," Utah Attorney
General Mark Shurtleff promised Friday on a conference call with national and
local Hispanic leaders.
Herbert said accessing the private information and distributing it to federal
immigration authorities is also a violation of federal law. Shurtleff said he
would seek the help of the U.S. attorney's office.
"We're talking serious, felony-level crimes," Shurtleff said.
The list contains Social Security numbers, birth dates, workplaces, addresses
and phone numbers. Names of children are included, along with due dates of
Cox said most of the people on the list are there because their children are
Herbert said there are two benefits administered by the state - food stamps and
prenatal care - that would provide information that could indicate someone is in
the country illegally. The state keeps records of the relatives of those
receiving benefits because it has to know what each person's household income is
before benefits are issued.
Officials continued investigating the list Friday even though state employees
usually have the day off as part of the state's four-day workweek to cut energy
The investigation comes as Herbert, a Republican, prepares to host a public
immigration summit Tuesday. Herbert has said he will sign an immigration bill
into law next year if he's still in office, but it's unclear how closely that
bill might mirror one lawmakers recently passed in Arizona.
Arizona's law, which takes effect July 29, directs police enforcing other laws
to determine a suspect's immigration status if there is reason to believe the
person is in the U.S. illegally. The Obama administration has sued Arizona to
throw out the law and keep other states from copying it.
___ Associated Press Writer Paul Foy contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press
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