Herbert calls for investigation into list of 1,300 identified as illegal immigrants

Lee Davidson, Tania Navarro, Cecilia Skinner, Reinaldo Escobar

Published: Tuesday, July 13 2010 7:00 p.m. MDT

A recent graduate from an area high school holds her son. Her name is on a list of alleged illegal immigrants that was sent to law enforcement.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — An anonymous group says it quietly watched Hispanics in their neighborhoods, schools, churches and "public welfare buildings" to compile a list of 1,300 people it says are illegal immigrants living in Utah. The group sent the list to law enforcement agencies and news media demanding that those named "be deported immediately."

It is not known who produced the list, although Gov. Gary Herbert has called for an investigation to see if the list was compiled by someone with access to state databases containing personal information. The list contains birth dates, workplaces, addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers. Names of children are included. Several pregnant women have their exact due dates listed. All the names seem to be Hispanic.

"This is a way to terrorize people," said Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino and a former state director of Hispanic affairs.

He spent much of Tuesday calling people on the list to warn them and to figure out who may have collected the information.

"I'm nauseated," he said through tears. "All of these people are terrified. I don't have words to describe how scared they are. It just breaks my heart what they are telling me."

While some are worried about deportation, others fear that "crazy people" could use the list to hurt them or their families, Yapias said.

He said wording of the letter has made some Hispanics wonder if they are being followed.

The letter, which came from a group called Concerned Citizens of the United States, strongly urges state and federal agencies to do more to enforce immigration laws.

"Our group observes these people in our neighborhoods, driving on our streets, working in our stores, attending our schools and entering our public welfare buildings," the letter reads. "We then spend the time and effort needed to gather information along with legal Mexican nationals who infiltrate their social networks and help us obtain the necessary information we need."

"We plan to provide your office with new lists on a continual basis and request — no insist — that your agency take immediate and forceful action to the individuals on this list and begin deportation now."

A West Valley mother of four who is on the list, but who asked that her name not be used for fear of deportation, told El Observador she immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico 15 years ago and has since had four children, all of whom are U.S. citizens because they were born here. When she was told she was on the list, she started crying and wondered what would happen to her children if she and her husband were deported.

"It feels like we're being persecuted," she said. She said she doubted that anyone from her neighborhood would have contributed to the list.

Mariana Hernandez, a 36-year-old who came here from Mexico 10 years ago, said that even before the list surfaced, the current anti-immigrant fervor in Utah had made her and other Hispanics fearful to go out in public, especially to stores and restaurants popular among Hispanics. She said some friends were even afraid to go to church. She also worried what would happen to her children, ages 8 and 4, if she were deported.

One woman on the list who spoke to KSL but asked not to be identified said she had a green card and would become a U.S. citizen next month.

"I have my papers," she said. "Why did they put me on that list? Now it's been 15 years since I got my residency. … I'm angry."

Yapias and others suspect that someone in state government may have compiled the list illegally from state databases that contain detailed personal information. Agencies such as the Department of Health, for example, collect personal information for applications for food stamps and Medicaid.

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