'The list' came from Utah DWS database, investigators say

Published: Friday, July 16 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Mark Alvarez, Tony Yapias, Rocio Mejia and Jose Gutierrez hold press conference at Centro Civico Mexicano to discuss "the list."

Matt Gillis , Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — State officials said Thursday that Utah Department of Workforce Services databases were indeed used to help generate a list of 1,300 supposed "illegal immigrants" that was spread to the news media and law enforcement by an anonymous group.

They also said that a woman employed at DWS had called Latino activist Tony Yapias two weeks ago to complain about illegal immigrants receiving social services. In the phone call, she identified herself only as a state employee. Yapias recorded the call.

State information technology employees who probed the origins of the list were able to determine that it came from someone at DWS, said Angie Welling, spokeswoman for Gov. Gary Herbert, "because all of the data included on the list are also contained within DWS' database. That is, it's a match that wasn't found in other agencies."

The information technology staff has now turned its attention to the DWS database "to determine who accessed the information and when, then make sure the access was not for business processes," Welling said. "That identification process is now under way, and we expect it to be completed soon."

By Monday, the investigation is expected to be handed to the Utah Attorney General's Office.

"We have an investigation division," AG spokesman Paul Murphy said. "Basically, what will happen is we will review the information and determine whether a criminal investigation is appropriate."

The release of a private record in Utah is a misdemeanor and if someone is found guilty, they could get up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, Murphy said. He said the law is part of the state's public information act, called the Government Records Access and Management Act.

Investigators do not know yet whether the DWS employee who called Yapias is responsible for the list, which contains identities of 1,300 people, including birth dates, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers used, names of children and even due dates of several pregnant women.

"Her contact with Mr. Yapias may have been entirely her personal opinion, wanting to express her personal viewpoints to him," DWS spokesman Dave Lewis said. Lewis declined to say whether the employee has been disciplined.

"We expect people to be professional and use common sense," he said. "And this may be a violation at the very least of both of those standards."

Meanwhile, leaders of Hispanic groups said at a Thursday press conference that "the list" has made many Utah Latinos feel like Jews in Nazi Germany. They also said the issue could divert an immigration roundtable that Herbert has scheduled for next Tuesday away from its original goal to discuss immigration reform.

"The Latino community in Utah is genuinely concerned and scared by this breach of privacy," said Archie Archuleta, chairman of the Utah Coalition of La Raza at a press conference by leaders of many Latino groups. Many of the leaders wore shirts and buttons saying, "I could be illegal."

"This is Gestapo-esque," activist Peggy Wilson said about the list. "Is this acceptable in Utah? … We are not in 1963 (in the black civil rights fights) anymore."

Activist Virginia Martinez said, "We might as well live in Russia or Germany when they hunted down Jews."

While most Hispanic groups praised Herbert for quickly ordering an investigation into whether state databases had been used for the list, some groups said Herbert had not been strident enough in condemnation of the list.

They pointed to a KTVX interview of Herbert where he said the list would be illegal if it came from state sources, but the TV station said he passed on three chances to condemn the list's existence in any circumstance. Herbert did not speak to the media Thursday, when it was confirmed that the data came from DWS.

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