At least 2 state employees compiled immigrant list, Gov. Gary Herbert says

Published: Saturday, July 17 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Shurtleff said because the list included the due dates of several pregnant women, those responsible may have violated federal health privacy laws, which would be a felony, not just a misdemeanor, as some violations of state databases could be.

Shurtleff added that his investigation will not necessarily be limited to state employees. "If others were involved in potential violations of law beyond state employees, certainly we're going to be looking at that, as well."

But Shurtleff said his office does not plan to do anything with the supposed "illegal immigrants" on the list. He said he will seek, as part of immigration reform, the power to go after companies that continually report employee Social Security numbers that are bogus or belong to someone else, even after the state has warned them the numbers are fake.

"As the attorney general of Utah, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the generation and dissemination of this list," Shurtleff said during the conference call to national reporters. "I want to make it very clear that is not the way we do things in Utah."

He said as people debate immigration reform, "we need to do it in a way that is not through lists, that is (not) through hate mongering, through political rhetoric, through threats, through outright and implied racism. That's not how we do things, and we condemn it."

Shurtleff said he hopes all sides will condemn the list and "put the hatred, the accusations aside and work toward comprehensive, workable reform."

Utah Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen said in a statement Friday that the party supported Herbert's request for an investigation into the origination and release of the list.

"The unlawful release of private information to the public is unconscionable under any circumstances and is not to be tolerated," Hansen said in the statement. "Immigration is an emotional and much-debated issue, not only here in Utah, but nationwide. However, (flouting) the law because of frustration with the law is no excuse for illegal behavior."

"The appropriate method of addressing immigration issues is through existing law or through the legislative process. Those parties who participated in the gathering and distribution of the private information of individuals should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said that the dissemination of confidential information contained in the list was "highly disturbing." She also said the U.S. Department of Labor would assist the state in the investigation, if necessary.

"No one, regardless of race, gender or ethnic background, should fear that by applying for government benefits or programs he or she is at risk of having personal information revealed," Holis said in a statement.

The list was distributed to news media and law enforcement agencies by an anonymous group calling for deportation of people it included. The list contained names, birth dates, addresses, phone numbers, names of children and even the due dates of several pregnant women. It contained names from all over the state.

Within hours of the first stories about "the list," Hispanic leaders called for Herbert to investigate whether it came from state sources — and he did so quickly.

Latino activist Tony Yapias praised the governor's efforts. "He put this to an end," Yapias said after attending Herbert's news conference. "I appreciated his leadership." Yapias said the incident has been a good lesson for government employees on "how to keep your own personal political views separate from your job."

But Yapias questioned whether the employees acted on their own. "I don't think a state employee, on their own, is going to say, 'Check this out. Let's get this out,' " he said, noting the letter that accompanied the list used the same language as anti-illegal-immigrant groups.

Eli Cawley, chairman of the Utah Minutemen Project, issued a news release on Friday defending the workers who released the data, saying they are patriots and whistle-blowers who deserve praise and not criminal charges.

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